I remember writing this blog post to you just two weeks after you died back in 2011, and what help that was to verbalize those words. Now, it’s December of 2013 and I can’t believe how much time has passed when it still feels like the funeral was yesterday and that I’d just seen you. Now, the phrase is, “My friend Jenna who passed away,” and the sadness that comes with thinking about you feels misplaced because shouldn’t I be “over it” by now? Jenna, you did a number on all of us who had the chance to know and love you – you created an irreplaceable presence in our lives that’s gone now and can’t be filled.
I think about you much more often than I anticipated. I remember you when I hear a laugh that sounds like yours, when I see someone with long blonde hair and a sweatshirt walking ahead of me on a sidewalk, when I drive past the cemetery that houses you now. I think of you when people mention the names we used to call each other, or when I get mascara on a pillowcase, or when I see Night Before Christmas decorations at Disneyland or when Blink-182 or Alkaline Trio comes on a playlist. Every time I go home to see my parents, I take the long way and drive past the house that I will always call yours and retrace the route we would race to meet between our houses. I remember how many times we walked that, and the path we carved down to Shield’s Park on so many summer mornings. I even remember the time we snuck out to go there and how much trouble we got in. I have a cd you made me in my desk here at work for the times I miss you too much not to hear something that brings you to mind. I have such fond memories with you, truly rose-colored in my mind, and there will never be another you.
Every time this comes on the radio, I think of you:
Hello there, the angel from my nightmare
The shadow in the background of the morgue
The unsuspecting victim of darkness in the valley
We can live like Jack and Sally if we want
Where you can always find me
And we’ll have halloween on Christmas
And in the night we’ll wish this never ends
We’ll wish this never ends
I miss you, miss you
I miss you, miss you
I know that memories fade as time goes by, and that scares me sometimes. I don’t want to ever hear these songs or see these places or remember these days and forget the details of your smile, your humor, your love for people. I remember your family in my prayers often, and miss you every day.
P.S. I am on this email list called The List Serve (which, thanks to my friend Lisa, brightens every day), and the email from a few days ago was from a person named Taylor who shared some tips for others about dealing with a friend who is grieving:
—– Listen —–
You can’t fill my void with words. Don’t tell me he’s in a better place, god has a plan, or any other cliché that sounds appropriate but really minimalizes my current, very real experience. He died. And no, this is not like the time your great-aunt died when you were three. Even the true stuff like ‘time heals’ doesn’t feel good to hear yet. You can simply say, “I don’t know what to say” and just be there. We can sit in silence. Or I probably have lots to say as I work through this: all kinds of sad, weird, dark, crazy, angry, contradictory, random stuff. Just be there, listen to me.
—– Reach out —–
Don’t wait for me to reach out to you. Call me, when I’m lying in the depths of devastation and meaninglessness, it’s easier to answer the phone than to find one, figure out who to dial, actually do it, and hope they will answer. Randomly stop by, and bring a funny movie (and food!). Be prepared to walk away without hurt feelings if I just want to be alone (leave the food). Likely I’ll need the company and the relief. Just the fact you checked in on me makes me a tiny bit less alone.
But you have to reach out a lot, and let me say no. Don’t expect me to be ready to share my pain with you when you’re ready to be available to me. I might finally be feeling good for a few precious moments, don’t force me into a conversation about “how I’m doing with all ‘that’” just because you have an extra ten today and want to feel like a good friend.
—– Give —–
Do the little things for me. I need practical help. Whether I am accepting it or not, my life goes on and I need to eat, fulfill some responsibilities, and take care of myself. The grocery store is unbelievably overwhelming. Why are there seven different kinds of EVERYTHING and which to choose? I can’t. It’s meaningless. Everything is meaningless. Why eat? Deliver me lunches, go grocery shopping for me, come fix me dinner, help me clean my space, take me on walks. I won’t think ask you for these things, but I need them.
It takes time. There’s no correct process or timescale. For me, years have passed and I’m happy and joyful again. I’m forever grateful to the few really good friends who didn’t disappear once the funeral ended. For the rest of my life I’ll miss my dad; what I like best now is reminiscing with family and old friends about him. The stories help him not feel so permanently far away. But he is, he died, and there’s no use ignoring death or minimalizing grief. Talk about it, be there, listen, reach out, give – don’t disappear. Love.
(you can read Taylor’s blog post here)
I have some great friends who have really been present for me in this process, and many who didn’t, and that’s ok. That has helped me learn to be strong on my own, learn how to depend on others, and learn how to be there for other friends who have lost loved ones.