The obligatory salutation: “How are you?” My answer these days: “Okay.”
I can never bring myself say say “Good” or “Great” because I’m just not. Now that doesn’t mean that I do not have good things in my life, because I do. I have many things to be grateful for. But my overall self, well-being and my stage of grief, I am not good or great. It’s actually quite painful and awful, so I settle for the middle ground of: “I’m Okay.” I recently shared from a fellow mother of loss who so poignantly wrote an article called “The Meaning Of Okay” and it perfectly sums all these feelings up, so please give it a read.
So I preface all of this because two Fridays ago I can honestly say from start to end was my first good day in a very long time. It started with a morning walk with my husband and dog, taking in the cooler weather. I then had an overdue hair appointment scheduled. Now I would assume that most women look forward to getting their hair done, because they leave feeling fresh and pampered. But I truly enjoy being AT the salon, because my stylist Amanda is quite amazing. She’s a wonderful listener and we have so much fun chatting and catching up – not only on real life things but also like all our favorite trashy TV shows that we watch. She’s a Bravo and Housewives fan, so that automatically grants her so much respect in my book 🙂 So it allows me to have a couple hours just to be, not worry and to top it off, I always leave with beautiful hair. I then grabbed lunch by myself, which I actually enjoy. Taking in the quiet and think while I nourish with food. Then I came home to start getting ready for my evening with Glennon.
My best friend Mandie introduced me to Glennon’s work earlier this year. I had heard her talk about her quite a bit before this though. Always referencing her blog Momastery and how Glennon was like her own Dalai Lama. So initially I did not give it much thought as I wasn’t a mother at the time. But while I was pregnant earlier this year, I asked Mandie if I could borrow a book for a beach trip that we were headed on. She gave me Leah Remini’s Scientology tell-all book that I requested, but then she also handed me Glennon’s Carry On Warrior. Telling me, “I know you did not ask for this, but I just think it should be required reading for all humans! And you’re about to be a mom and I just think you’ll love her message.” Well I did not get a chance to read Carry On Warrior on that trip, but I still held onto Mandie’s copy.
Fast forward to June, exactly one month after we tragically lost our son during my 30th week of pregnancy. My husband had a work trip in Ft. Lauderdale and there was no way I was going to be able to spend a night apart from him. So his work was gracious enough to let me tag along. So I brought Carry On Warrior with me on this beach trip. While my husband was in meetings during the day, I sat by the pool reading Glennon’s beautiful words. I could not get enough, trying to soak in each message, all while anxious to turn the next page! What resonated with me the most was when she was sharing a story about sister and her devastating divorce. Her sister was in so much pain and grieving the loss of her marriage. Glennon felt helpless. All she wanted to do was fix her sister’s pain, but she couldn’t and this was her Brutiful (Glennon’s phrase that life is brutal but it’s also beautiful) realization:
“If you are blessed enough to be someone’s ‘In Case of Emergency’ and you are called upon, keep being who you have always been. Do what you’ve always done. There is a reason your friend chose you for that role, so don’t freeze. Keep moving. Trust your instincts. Go to her. Don’t call her first, because she won’t know she wants you there until you arrive and sit down. Don’t ask, “What can I do?” She doesn’t know. Just do SOMETHING. When you go to her house, bring a movie in case she doesn’t want to talk. If she does want to talk, avoid saying things to diminish or explain away her pain, like, “Everything happens for a reason,” or “Time heals all wounds,” or “God gives us only what we can handle.” These are things people say when they don’t know what else to say, and even if you think they are true, they’re better left unsaid because they only can be discovered in retrospect. When her pain is fresh and new, let her have it. Don’t try to take it away. Forgive yourself for not having that power. Grief and pain are like joy and peace; they are not things we should snatch from each other. They are sacred. They are part of each person’s journey. All we can do is offer relief from this fear: “I am all alone.” That’s the one fear you can alleviate. Offer your ‘In Case of Emergency Person’ your presence, your love, yourself, so she’ll understand that no matter how dark it gets, she’s not walking alone. That is ALWAYS enough to offer.
Grief is not something to be fixed. It’s something to be borne, together. And when the time is right, there is always something that is born FROM it. After real grief, we are reborn as people with wider and deeper vision and greater compassion for the pain of others. We know that. So through our friend’s grief, we maintain in our hearts the hope that in the end, good will come of it. But we do not say that to our friend. We let our friend discover that on her own. Hope is a door each one must open for herself.”
Yas Glennon, YAS! I was hooked. So much, that I felt my husband had to hear her words too. So at night, we crack open Carry On Warrior and read aloud some chapters together. We then discuss which parts resonate with us. The chapter where Glennon talks about how she yearned for Craig to make her Birthday special, and when he missed the mark, she declared that her Birthday would have to be rescheduled. Jon began cracking a grin, looking right at me, stating “Oh my. This is SO you.”
So I called Mandie from Florida to thank her for this gift. She immediately said, go online and get tickets to her speaking engagement in Charlotte. It’s in November but they’re selling out quick, and that the VIP meet and greet ones are probably gone, but at least get a general admission one. Sure enough, the VIP tickets were sold out. I was bummed that I wouldn’t get to meet this woman who was helping me so much through my grief. But I was ecstatic that I would just be able to go and hear her speak live.
Mandie then also lent me her copy of Glennon’s new book Love Warrior which I read just as feverishly on my recent family beach vacation in October. Can you tell I enjoy reading on the beach? Also a must read for all humans.
Then about a week before the speaking engagement my friend Shauna reached out to me. Now Shauna is ride or die for Glennon. She’s been there with Glennon from the beginning along with Mandie, they’re OG fans. So of course she got her VIP ticket months ago. Shauna discovered that a work trip to Vegas was now going to prevent her from going to see Glennon. I don’t think devastated is even the right word of how upset she was to miss this. But Shauna being Shauna, she said “Kelley I know you’ve been going through hell these past 6 months and when I realized I wouldn’t be able to go see Glennon, I wanted to give my VIP ticket to you.” Insert tears. I was so blown away by her generosity and graciousness towards me. It was even more kismet because my dear friend Jamie was coming into town from Raleigh that night to see me, and I thought I’d have to postpone seeing her until after the event because it was sold out. But with Shauna’s gift to me, I was able to gift my ticket to my friend Jamie. Maybe all of 2016 doesn’t suck 😉
So Mandie and I met up early for our meet and greet with Glennon. As we’re walking into the auditorium she says: “I have a little surprise for you … so I messaged Glennon and told her my best friend has been going through some hard times. She wrote me back and said we would be her special guests for evening. Giving us front row seats and some extra time with her during our meet and greet.” Again, insert tears. Now for those of you who don’t know Mandie (which is probably no one) because in fact she does know everyone, including Glennon Doyle Melton. I was just beside myself that this was all happening and I have the most incredible friends.
So we get in line to meet Glennon back stage, and right away she acknowledges Mandie with so much excitement. I approach her and immediately she gives me the biggest hug. She does not let go of me for a good minute or so. I can just feel all her love and support with this hug. So of course, I start to cry. And she simply says “Aw baby girl. I’m here.” No platitudes or empty words were given. Just her presence and love. She acknowledged my pain and stood there with it. We snapped some pictures with her and it was such an amazing moment meeting her.
Jamie then got there and we all took our seats. It was a perfect two hours of Glennon sharing her story and insights of what she has learned through her journey of life. From addiction, to marriage, divorce, motherhood, religion, grief, and charity. You name it, we covered it. When she speaks, you truly can visualize her message. It’s a power that not many posses.
Some take away’s from the evening for me were:
- As women we have our real self and our representative. Our representative is the image that we put out to others of who we think we should be. But our real self, is who we are at our core. That our representative can be liked by others, but never can truly feel love. We only feel love as our real selves. And the only way we ever learn and grow is through real love and real pain.
- That we need to be truth tellers. Stop putting that representative out into the world, because she is not real. Speak up, tell the truth, be vulnerable. If we aren’t being honest with ourselves, how can we expect honesty from others?
- 1. What you don’t know, you’re not supposed to know yet. 2. More will be revealed. 3 Crisis means to sift. Let it all fall away and you’ll be left with what matters. 4.What matters most cannot be taken away. 5. Just do the next right thing one thing at a time. That’ll take you all the way home.
- God is whoever you want it to be. God can be Jesus, God can be love and to her one friend who struggles with the idea of God, she calls him “Sebastian”! God is simply the love we have towards the people we know, and then showing that same love to strangers. She even touched on that her daughter is an atheist, and that this doesn’t scare her at all. She expressed that atheists are the most tender hearted people because they cannot have blind faith that any God could allow the hurt and pain that we experience on this earth, so they simply cannot believe.
- Fear is what always stops us making the right decision. That we have two voices in our head. The loud one that overpowers most thoughts by putting doubt and fear into our actions. But if we sit quiet enough, we will hear the small quiet voice. This is one that is telling us the right thing to do. That we need to always listen to the small voice.
At the end, it was opened up for questions from the audience and the last question meant so much to me. A woman expressed that her best friend is going through the worst thing that anyone could go through – her 16 year old son died by suicide. She pleaded with Glennon: “What can we do as her friends? Even when we try to listen to that still small voice you spoke of, it still doesn’t seem good enough. What can we do?” Glennon then shared this quote:
The visual of Glennon as she spoke these words, waving her hand in the air to show this receipt of love – it was so moving. She reassured this woman, people who are hurting don’t need Avoiders, Protectors, or Fixers. What we need are patient, loving witness. People to sit quietly and hold space for us. People to stand in helpful vigil to our pain. That we all need to become more comfortable with pain, because it’s all a part of our lives. But most of us want to stuff it down, so we never have to feel it. But it always comes back, some way, somehow. And more we ignore it, the greater it will hurt us later. In tragic losses like these, the pain is all we have left. So if you try to take the pain away, you’re also taking the memory and love right along with it. And finally, always keep showing up. She said whatever you do, do not stop showing up.
Then as Mandie and I walked out of the auditorium we noticed a familiar face. It was the woman who just spoke to ask the question about her friend’s loss. Mandie immediately walked up to her to give her a hug and asked, “Is this your friend you spoke of?” which she responded “Yes.” So then of course Mandie hugged her too and said “This is my best friend, she too is going through the world’s worst thing.” At that point the mother turned to me and said “Did your son die too?” and I said “Yes.” We hugged and cried together for quite some time. She pulled back to look me in the eyes and said “You’re doing great. You will survive this.” Which I then said to her “How are you uplifting me right now in all your pain?! You’re amazing.” She then ended with “Oh honey, I’m drunk!” And we all had the most cry filled giggle there was.
Thank you Jonathan, Rocky, Amanda, Shauna, Mandie, Jamie & especially Glennon for giving me the first “good day” that I’ve had in quite some time ❤
“In all my close friendships, words are the bricks I use to build bridges. To know someone I need to hear her, and to feel known, I need to be heard by her. The process of knowing and loving another person happens for me through conversation. I reveal something to help my friend understand me, she responds in a way that assures me she values my revelation, and then she adds something to help me understand her. This back-and-forth is repeated again and again as we go deeper into each other’s hearts, minds, pasts, and dreams. Eventually, a friendship is built – a solid, sheltering structure that exists in the space between us – a space outside of ourselves that we can climb deep into. There is her, there is me, and then there is our friendship – this bridge we’ve built together.”
― Glennon Doyle Melton,