Over the next few weeks and months as I am able I will be posting a series of blogs related to my journey through the painful grief of losing my friend Louise. I want to focus on a broad range of topics - sharing genuinely what the weeks and months post loss have looked like for me. To read about my sweet friend, check out my previous blog.
The natural place for me to start in this blog series on grief, and honestly a beautiful blessing that came of this awful tragedy, is from the community of women that banded together during the most tragic moment of our lives.
Louise was a friend to so many. I cannot even describe how many people loved her and how many people she was able to keep in touch with throughout her life. Most people let new seasons in their life dictate new friendships but Louise somehow was able to make all her worlds connect and stay in touch with all of them. The best part of that is she wanted to make sure all of her friends were connected and knew each other, too.
I first met Louise through a small group at Park. We began meeting in February 2013 and over the years saw many members come and go due to moving or life change. Louise was the glue of that group. She had individual relationships with each woman and she was dearly loved by all of us. The news of her death shook all of us individually but really shook us up as a group, too.
Our group was really good at celebrating life together - new babies, engagements, marriages, grad school acceptance, new jobs - but grief was a new one for us. We didn’t have much experience. Outside of family members passing away - which was so so difficult to a friend hurting - losing one of our own was something none of us could ever expect or be prepared for. We all hurt. We were shaken. We were struck with grief. We clung to each other. We had no idea what to do.
Those first few days I’m not sure what I would have done without these women. My home had an open door to them - my people. And not just our small group but some of Louise’s dear friends from our church, too. We sat around my table, on my couch and asked questions, cried, sat confused, prayed. There were some incredibly tender moments. I have never felt more alone and more supported and loved at the same time.
A few weeks after Louise passed, I was lead to read the story of Jesus passing in Luke. In chapter Luke 23 verse 49, Luke talks about the people who were on the hill with Jesus when he died. “But all who knew Him, including the women who had followed him from Galilee, stood at a distance watching these things.”
What we know about these women is that they included Mary Magdalene, Joanna & Susanna. These women along with others in their group followed Jesus from Galilee, supported him financially out of gratitude for him healing them. As many compare the disciples to the original “small group” I think this group of women was like the original “women’s bible study”. They knew Jesus well. They had been healed by him. They loved him. They stuck together.
As these women are standing on the hill of calvary I can only think of how their emotions and sadness must have compared to the grief felt in my own community. They lost their friend. The glue of their group. It wasn’t fair. It wasn’t how it was supposed to happen. I’m sure they were absolutely full of grief. But they were together. Grief is such a dark and weary road. It is not meant to be walked alone. Sure there are definitely moments where you need to disconnect and process alone (and I intend to write more about that later). But without community- people to walk this road with- it can seem so much darker.
Later in chapter 23, this same group of women -using what I can only think to be each other for support and stability - prepares spices to help properly preserve the body of their fallen friend (Luke 23: 55-56). The courage that this act took, that in the midst of their grieving they knew there was work to be done. There was a friend to honor, a body to care for. And just as strong resilient women do, they bound together and went to work.
In my same story I saw all of my small group band together that Saturday of Louise’s funeral. We planned and showed up early to set up. We prepared food in honor of her love of celebrating around a table. We shared stories and tributes. We cried. We prayed. But in the midst of our grief and with the help of each other we got to work to honor the legacy our friend imprinted on our lives.
Something I have learned from these past few weeks is that I cannot make it without the help of my people. We need each other. I cannot walk this road of grief alone. I know that my story is similar to many others that knew Louise as well. I heard stories of her former co-workers, high school & college friends coming together to honor her in their own unique ways. She touched so many people so naturally there are so many ways to honor her.
I have been honored to be able to connect with many people from the groups mentioned above. Louise loved so many lovely people and I have treasured every conversation, every connection and every hug shared. Though we may have been strangers before, Louise binds us and I am so thankful for the beautiful people I’ve been able to meet - both here in the US and abroad. It has been an honor to walk beside you as you walk through your own grief journey. I think of you all often and though I don’t see you daily I’m thankful to be connected to you. A piece of her lives on in each of us that she loved. I’m so thankful to know so many of you and see you living out that beauty inside you.
If you are walking this dark and weary road of grief and are finding yourself alone I urge you to find the courage to talk to a trusted friend, support group or therapist. I have linked a few resources below.
Remember you are never alone. Find your people. Cling to them. Walk with them. Live genuinely with them. We will make it. Together.