The internet is FULL of grief resources, references and recommendations. There is a site out there for everyone as they traverse their grief.
I recently got a chance to view a particularly insightful video from two women who never intended to be a grief resource. Their web videos are titled I Mom So Hard.
Kristin Hensley and Jen Smedley, comedy performers, writers and teachers who happen to be moms of young children, began the series of videos that are full of laughter as they make fun out of mothering. They chose to approach motherhood with their comedy and sense of humor (along with a minimum two glasses of wine) in a brash, no-holds-barred, real-life way. Any followers of their web series knew they were going to ‘laugh-so-hard’ when they tuned in. That’s why they may not have expected a recent offering called “I Grieve So Hard” where Jen and Kristin talk about how hard it is to grieve the loss of Jen’s dad, Jerry.
The video starts out with in typical Jen/Kristin/MomSoHard humor talking about how Kristin’s husband wants to make funeral arrangements, figure out whose going to take care of their kids should something happen to them, talk about the ‘afterlife’; Kristin and Jen make fun of these difficult topics. Bringing a sense of humor to a difficult topic eases the difficulty for many people. No parent wants to think about dying and leaving their children behind so who wants to talk about who would care for our orphaned children? And yet…the question needs to be asked by all parents – who will care for my children if I can’t?
Kristin is a glowing example of what I call a grief ‘companion’, she’s there, right by her friend Jen’s side, to support her and begins the story of what ultimately ends in Jen saying out loud that her dad has died. Throughout the five minutes they spend on this topic Kristin remains by her friend’s side, listening intently turning her body toward Jen and paying close attention. At one point Kristin wipes the tears from Jen’s face in the sweetest way. Sometimes handing a grieving person a tissue or wiping away their tears can be a sign to the griever to ‘Stop crying’. But this gentle display of friendship does not ask her friend to stop crying it says, ‘I’m here for you, I’ll care for you, I’ll wipe away your tears so more can come, I’m okay with your tears’.
Jen talks painfully about her father not having a funeral and how, without that acknowledgment, that age-old ritual of a funeral, it feels as though the world keeps going, no one stopped to remember her dad, to comfort her sorrow in community. Kristin agrees and tells Jen her brain didn’t get a chance to celebrate his life or say goodbye. Kristin, and this video give Jen that chance to celebrate her dad, to remember him, to share his life with her friend (and the hundreds of thousands of follower friends). Kristin sparks memories of Jen’s dad that give her permission to continue to remember and cherish her dad, asking about his being a colonel. They marvel at him, they laugh about him and his trips to Taco Bell. I often ask people to share a memory of the time she or he made you laugh or tell me something funny about your loved one to spark that little bit of laughter and bring balance to the bittersweet or sad memories with the happy, joyful times spent together. In our most profound sadness it is laughter or a small sweet smile that can ‘fool’ our brain chemistry into feeling better. Kristin encourages Jen to talk about her feelings, about her memories ‘even if it makes you cry’, again giving her permission to be sad and a message that I will be here with you even in your sadness.
The ladies jump to what they do best, talk about being moms, moms who are grieving ‘so hard’. Jen talks about how hard it is to be a mom, a wife ‘or even an operational human’. Jen speaks to one of the most profound lessons we learn as-an-adult when a parent dies: your parent dies and ‘all of a sudden you’re an adult’. Jen reminds us that becoming an adult is not when you have your own kids, it’s when you don’t have anybody you can ask or go cry too; and again Kristin steps in to acknowledge that feeling saying: when you need them the most, and they’re not there. If you’ve had both your parents die, no matter your age, you feel ‘orphaned’.
After Kristin tells Jen she’s ‘doing a great job’, Jen thanks Kristin for ‘letting me cry a lot even though it makes you uncomfortable’. Being available, listening, gently wiping her tears, sharing through the uncomfortable feelings is what a good grief companion and friend does to help. Kristin shared a poem she once heard that helped her (see below) and allowed Jen to believe she would see her dad again one day, even if her ‘scientist’ dad didn’t believe that. And as the tears flow yet again, Kristin wraps Jen in a hug and tells her simply: I’m sorry honey.
She no doubt will repeat that several times in the months to come and they will laugh and cry together doing their mom thing – so hard.
Grief is hard, being a mom is hard, life is hard – only good friends, people who love us, and laughter can ease the hard parts of life.
Death Is Nothing At All
Death is nothing at all.
It does not count.
I have only slipped away into the next room.
Nothing has happened.
Everything remains exactly as it was.
I am I, and you are you,
and the old life that we lived so fondly together is untouched, unchanged.
Whatever we were to each other, that we are still.
Call me by the old familiar name.
Speak of me in the easy way which you always used.
Put no difference into your tone.
Wear no forced air of solemnity or sorrow.
Laugh as we always laughed at the little jokes that we enjoyed together.
Play, smile, think of me, pray for me.
Let my name be ever the household word that it always was.
Let it be spoken without an effort, without the ghost of a shadow upon it.
Life means all that it ever meant.
It is the same as it ever was.
There is absolute and unbroken continuity.
What is this death but a negligible accident?
Why should I be out of mind because I am out of sight?
I am but waiting for you, for an interval,
somewhere very near,
just round the corner.
All is well.
Nothing is hurt; nothing is lost.
One brief moment and all will be as it was before.
How we shall laugh at the trouble of parting when we meet again!