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  • lizhenderson28

Healing After a Tragedy

I have a true story I want to share. This isn't the kind of thing I usually write on here, but I think it's important. Maybe one of you has been through something similar and this will help you not feel so alone. I've been hesitant to share this because I'm not the one that had it hardest; but that doesn't discount what I went through.

Let me set the scene. It's Friday, July 6, 2018. My 11-month old son is taking his afternoon nap. My husband's work is out of power and he's thinking of coming home early and BBQing. I'm supposed to return to work on Monday, in three short days, but I haven't worked out the details with my boss. To help me deal with the stress, I'm playing Fortnite. I'm hiding in a house on the northeast corner of the map when my phone rings. Having just got a new cellphone plan that includes caller ID, I see that it's my father-in-law. I pick up the phone and he tells me he can't get ahold of my husband. Then he proceeds to tell me he has bad news: his ex-wife, my husband's mother, has committed suicide. I call my husband and leave a voicemail letting him know to call me or his father.

My grandmother is coming into town for a visit that day. She's supposed to drop by for a visit with my mother later. So I call my mother and tell her the news and say maybe my grandmother shouldn't visit.

I go into my son's room and cry, watching him sleep. Silently, I promise never to leave him willingly. A few minutes later, my husband calls me; I tell him to come home. Thus begins one of the hardest periods of my life.

The next morning, I'm playing with my son, trying to keep good spirits. My son takes his first steps. It's bittersweet. If things were normal, my husband would probably have seen it too. And it's the first thing that my mother-in-law has missed out on. We can't send her a message or a video telling her the exciting news.

So on Monday, instead of making my return to work, I start planning a funeral. I pick the funeral home and the gravesite, contact a pastor to hold the service. We go visit each place, dragging our little son along with us. My mother is amazing and takes time off work so she can drive us and help watch our son. Between appointments, I sometimes have to decide whether to try and comfort my grieving husband or deal with my fussing son. It's an impossible choice.

At 30, I'm faced with a question I never thought I'd have to ask: what does an 11-month old wear to the graveside funeral of his grandmother in the middle of summer? Not many people make it to the funeral, and it's a bit heartbreaking. One small plus side is some family from the other side of the country get to meet my son for the first time.

A couple of weeks later, my husband somehow pulls himself together enough for us to have a first birthday party for our son. I only have good memories of that day. While my mother-in-law was still alive, I was worried about her being able to attend the party; she hadn't been able to come over since Easter. I wanted my son to look back at the pictures of that day and not have to ask why she wasn't there. Well, she wasn't there, but at least I have an answer; a clear but tragic answer. Two years later, I'm not sure how to mention her to our son. She loved him so much. My father-in-law is married to a sweet woman who treats my son just like her grandchild. My son has two grandmothers and two grandfathers, just like most kids. He's not lacking love, but he's missing out on the crazy grandmother who he will never know.

Mental health matters. Death causes ripples of pain in its wake that go very far and very deep. If you ever think your life doesn't matter, think again. Get help. You will be missed.

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