The Support of a Sister
 
Until it happens, we never know where our support will come in or in what form. I didn't have a partner, and truly, I'm not used to leaning on anyone. Being a single mom, I got used to taking care of everything myself. Mothering is busy work and didn't leave time for social connections, they came later, once the kids were grown and I got out in the world in a new way.
 

So, when Gabe died I didn't know where to turn. I felt lost and afloat. My daughters were busy with their own grief, and they had partners to support them and their own kids to keep them focused. I had myself.

People offering condolences did little to make me feel better, and to be fair, there is little anyone could do that would. The words “I'm sorry for your loss” felt so hollow to me. I know that they were from well-meaning loved ones, but I was confused by “my loss”. I didn't lose something, my son DIED. He was gone, he was dead. They felt like words people would use when they didn't really know what to say.

It's taught me to try finding more genuine and authentic words and support for others when someone they are close to dies. I will say “I'm sorry about your son” or “I'm so sorry to hear that”, but I don't use the words “sorry for you loss”. And if the person feels like sharing more, I try to listen. Everyone is different and what is support for one person may be entirely different than what it is for another. And grieving is a very individual experience as well.

I realize now, looking back, that the greatest support came from my sister, Lark. She wasn't with me in person, but she was just a phone call or email away (this was a little before Facebook became popular). Lark would look up articles about Gabe that someone wrote or posted online and send me links. She's a researcher and she'd connect me to all kinds of information. She'd find videos made by Gabe's friends. And even as kids, Lark was always the person that I could talk to about anything, and after Gabe's death we talked and talked. It was good to be heard.

We'd grown up in a family that doesn't talk much about feelings. In fact, I am not sure if any of my immediate family ever asked me how I felt after Gabe died. And I don't know if I've ever really expressed what I felt, losing my son. This book is about that.

I felt like a part of me had been physically ripped away, torn from me, and I couldn't grasp onto it or pull it back. He was gone. Nothing could change that. All I could do is go on living and learn to accept it.

But going on living wasn't so easy, either. It didn't feel right. How could I be here without my son? What could life be with him gone?

My spiritual friends told me not to grieve. They said he's in a better place now. But these words are empty, coming from people who have not walked in my shoes. I realized how well-meaning these people were, but the message is the same: “Don't feel, don't talk about it, just get over it.”

I do a lot of spiritual work on myself. But my path is different. In my practice we honor our feelings, all of them. We feel what we feel, rather than stuff it away or bypass the feelings with platitudes.

I've come to believe that that the depth of the pain is equal to the depth of the love and I welcome the feelings when the come bubbling up, like they do every now and then. They certainly show themselves less these days, as time does take us further from the memories. Yet, I don't want to lose a single memory of Gabe. I don't want to become unfeeling or numb. There will never be a day that my son wasn't an important part of my life.

When I think back on those early days following his death, I guess the other person that got me through it was Sergeant Sidney Cardozo, the person assigned to help us navigate the funeral arrangements and other details. He met with us and explained the process. He laid out our choices of burial or cremation, where to hold the service and other options we had. We got pretty used to seeing him. I don't even remember the last time we saw Sidney or when we said our goodbye's. It was probably at or shortly after the funeral for me, since I soon went back to Mexico. But it's also not surprising that my memories aren't so good, I was still in shock and walking around like a bit of a zombie.

I think the lack of people I could really talk to about Gabe's death just reinforced my feelings that people I was alone and that people don't want to talk about it. But now I'm ready to change that. I'm ready to talk, because we all need to talk about what happens in our lives and share our feelings. And we all need to support each other in the challenges and hardships life brings us.   

I am grateful for the support I had, especially for my sister, Lark. If someone in my family reads this and wonders why I seem not to remember more (I was so numb and in shock that I barely remember who was there) … or if you want to ask me about my feelings, I'm happy to talk about Gabe and to share.