United by a Common Bond of Grief and Loss

United by a Common Bond of Grief and Loss

I have recently visited a certain local café on a few occasions. I struck up a friendship with the woman who usually manned the till. Today I was heading for lunch with a friend when he asked “Will we go to this café or to that one?” I instinctively replied “Can we go that one please? The woman on the till is really nice.” He flashed me a look that suggested “Either I’ve misheard you or you’re crazy.”

As a matter of fact, all of the staff in that café are very pleasant and helpful, but most people select a café based on the quality of the food or the value for money, but not solely on the personality of the person who rings in your purchases on the till!

Today however, when I went to pay for my panini, my usual friend was nowhere to be seen and I felt a twinge of disappointment. Mind you, the person who was operating the till turned out to be someone that I knew from a previous job so I had a quick catch up with her instead, which was nice too.

Just after I had finished eating, my lunch companion disappeared to take a phone-call. I looked around to see if there was somebody else to chat to. There in the corner I spied my ‘cash till friend’ (the one I had been hoping to see) sitting at a table having her lunch break. I slid into the empty seat opposite her and said a cheery hello. Her face lit up with a big smile – she had previously told me how much she enjoyed her job and that meeting people was one of the best bits.

I knew from our brief conversations that she had children so I asked how her family were doing. In the course of the ensuing conversation she told me that her oldest boy had died in 1993, aged 14 years. In that precise moment I knew exactly why I had always felt a connection with this woman! I told her about Leah and showed her a photograph. Her eyes misted over.

She told me of the devastatingly tragic circumstances in which her first-born son had died, of their last conversation, of the phone call informing her that something had happened, of the drive to the hospital and of her own intuition that had told her that things were very serious even before she arrived at the hospital.

She also told me a little about some of the very difficult ways in which she and her husband had tried to numb the awful unbearable pain. Then she told me of how she had finally come to a place of peace when she “surrendered her son to God” and accepted that this much loved young boy had only been given to them “on loan.” She told me too about the priest who has supported their family through it all, who never forgets, who still visits them periodically.

She said to me “This conversation is no accident you know.” I nodded in full agreement while blinking back my tears. It was like balm to my soul to be in the presence of someone who truly understood, for whom no explanations were necessary.

She thanked me for speaking to her and we hugged.

There in that cafeteria, two mothers, united by a common bond of grief and loss, sharing each other’s pain, we hugged.

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Grief – the pain that goes on hurting

Grief – the pain that goes on hurting

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Growing up I had two ambitions – to marry and have kids and to become a nurse and work with children.

I always adored kids and had babysitting jobs from my early teens. My nursing training took me in the direction of working with adults and it wasn’t until 2004 that I “remembered” that I really wanted to work with children so I went to work in a pre-school for children with Special Needs which I really enjoyed.

By then I was married with four children and my family were my life.
My goal in life was to put God first, my children and husband second, then everything else after that.

By 2012 I had got the job that I really wanted – working as a part-time Family Support Worker on the Health Visiting Team. I love babies and small children, I love supporting parents and I loved being back in the Health Service.

I used to wonder if it was ‘normal’ to enjoy one’s job so much. Life was good.

When Leah began having investigations and regular appointments at the start of January 2013, the flexibility of my working hours meant that I could tweak my work commitments, so as to always be there for Leah without ever needing to take time off my work.

My work was my “holy grail” and surely if I could keep that normal then everything else could be normal too.

The next working day after receiving the news of Leah’s awful diagnosis I worked a full morning of Home Visits before informing my manager of what we had been told regarding our daughter. She naturally questioned whether I should be at my work, but I insisted on continuing to come to work – my job was my means of staying sane – or so I thought.

Sadly, 10 days later, it was obvious to both me and to everyone else that I couldn’t combine the demands of caring for Leah and coming to my work.

I found it very distressing for a while to not have the ‘escape’ of going into work. I found it emotionally difficult to always be on the receiving end of the Health Service instead of the giving end – I felt at times terribly vulnerable.

Now it’s been over a year since I last went to work. My employers have been kind to me. My manager and my work colleagues have been incredibly supportive.

A goal has been set for my return to part-time work for the 1st September 2014. I know that the ‘me’ that will return that day will not be the ‘me’ that left in May 2013. I feel like a bird with a broken wing and wonder how it’s possible that I can ever fly again.

I have to continue day by day trusting that God will give me the strength that I need. This morning I was listening to ‘Sovereign‘ by Chris Tomlin and I noticed these words:

Sovereign in my greatest joy
Sovereign in my deepest cry
With me in the dark
With me at the dawn

In your everlasting arms
All the pieces of my life
From beginning to the end
I can trust you

In your never failing love
You work everything for good
God whatever comes my way
I will trust you”

Every day is a challenge – the pain of my loss is like nothing I’ve ever before experienced.

Grief is a pain that just goes on hurting.

Throughout Leah’s illness and death I’ve never felt a need to ask ‘Why?’ 

When Leah was diagnosed one of the Bible verses that immediately came to my mind was

Job 2:10 (MSG)
‘He told her, “You’re talking like an empty-headed fool. We take the good days from God—why not also the bad days?”
Not once through all this did Job sin. He said nothing against God.’

Since Leah’s death my only question has been “How?” – “How is it possible to ever go on living without one of my children?”

More lyrics from ‘Sovereign’ –

All my hopes
All I need
Held in your hands

All my life
All of me
Held in your hands

All my fears
All my dreams
Held in your hands

All my hopes
All I need
Held in your hands

All my life
All of me
Held in your hands

All my fears
All my dreams
Held in your hands

In your everlasting arms
All the pieces of my life
From beginning to the end
I can trust you’