She stuck around

She didn’t go away.

After Mabel died, many people didn’t know what to do, how to help. Some people stumbled through awkward “I’m sorrys,” some offered unhelpful platitudes, some told their own tales of woe to try to help me realize I wasn’t alone, some invisibly dropped off food on our doorstep as a physical gesture of their care, some disappeared all together.

She didn’t. She didn’t go away.

One day, she came by just to hang out. We sat at my kitchen table and talked about unimportant things I don’t remember now. She didn’t mention Mabel once. I remember noting that to Chris afterwards. It was strange not to ask about my baby, dead not even a few weeks, but her visit was still pleasant. I enjoyed it.

She kept coming.

In the early days we spent time together and rarely talked of Mabel. This I know now was her not knowing what to do. But she knew enough to simply be present. This was amazing. People who truly felt at a loss of what to do or how to be often just disappeared. But here was a friend who felt that way, but understood how important it was just to stumble through. I still needed to talk about Mabel, about my grief, and ultimately we began to do so. She had some of the most genuine responses to what I had to say and would do some of the simplest gestures to show she still thought about my baby. She cried- not watching me cry, but cried because she was honestly sad that Mabel died. She participated in Mabel Was Here. Months later, when I was riding in her car, the little sign with those words on it was still taped to her dashboard. She hadn’t taken it down.

There are many times I have written about when people say the wrong thing-and I’ll give them the benefit of being well intentioned. Sometimes, though, I have to remember the people who are well intentioned and succeed! Even in the non traditional sense. She didn’t say anything mindblowing. She often didn’t have the right words to say. But she stayed. She was present. And that’s what’s important.


Has anyone given you support in a surprising way?


16 thoughts on “She stuck around

  1. It’s a gift when someone can humble themselves, even clumsily, not knowing how to do it…, but knowing they want to be there. I have had several of these people, many of whom I never expected to be supportive. One person has brought us a meal almost every week since Zachary died. Yes, she still does it, even 14 months later. She almost always says (if I see her in person, or by text) that she is doing it to let us know that she remembers Zachary. She is very careful to use his name, again and again. I’ve tried to get her to stop, bought gift cards and cookies to thank her, and she says she wants to keep on doing this in memory of Zachary. It continues to work on my heart….

    • what an amazing friend who brings you food. such a gift to know that she’s thinking of Zachary as she cooks every weeks! even after a year. I’m sending much love in the air to that friend- may she know how wonderful she is.

  2. I was really moved too by people who weren’t crying because they were sad for me or my partner but who were just sharing our pain at contemplating a world without Paul. And i am so thankful we were surrounded by many friends and family members who did just that.

    I continue to be amazed at how lucky we are to have people just stand by us in the ways they could (making food, organizing for a celebration, sending us their kids’ drawing of Paul, even now, more than a year later, crying and laughing with us…)

    • yes- I especially love those kid moments- drawings and repeated phrases. Kids have such amazing memories and visions. FOr my birthday my 4 year old niece drew me a paper carrot and put glitter on it and my sister sent me a video of her explaining it and wishing me happy birthday. it touched my heart.

  3. I had one friend who was very open about crying with me. She told me very directly that she was so sad she’d never to get to meet and hold and know my daughter. That she had been really looking forward to that, and that she was so sad. It meant so much.

    • I love that simplicity- so sad that she missed the opportunity to know your daughter! I feel that way all the time and I like to think my friends feel that way.

  4. Wow, that was trully wonderful of your friend, small (even though huge in meaning) acts like that are the reason some of us did not do ourselves in.
    I have a friend that has stood by me, and he was the most unlikely candidate for this role because a) he is a guy, who has never experienced the loss of a child or any other major tragedy in his life. b) He lives in another country with is wife and son (he is British, lives in South Africa and I am in Uganda). But, He never goes a week without checking on me, by phone or email, he is not afraid to talk about Sinza, and whenever he visits Uganda for work, (once or twice a year- he is an international consultant) he makes sure to spend a weekend after his work is done, visiting with me, cooking me meals, takes me out to dinner, visits the cemetery and weeds her grave and decorates it with plastic flowers with me, he remembered and called me on her birthday… I have a hard time convincing anyone that our friendship is purely platonic..and it is. He truly is is my silver lining. These friends are truly inspirational, and challenge us to constantly look outside of ourselves…what a blessing!

    • wow! isnt it amazing how some people come out of the woodwork. I have made good friends out of people who were just acquaintances before because they used Mabel (i use the word “used” in the best possible way) to get closer. It’s a special kind of friendship. I’m so glad you have such a friend who in in Sinza’s life as well.

  5. We have a friend who almost immediately offered to come over. Brought dinner. He and his girlfriend weren’t afraid to be with us – like you said, just being there is so important. Sadly, he probably knew this as his father had died just a few months earlier.

    • Another – very different – example: the girlfriend of a colleague, whom I barely knew, spent quite a while talking to me on our first encounter after the twins were born. Her most memorable phrase was this: “When D told me your news, I cried for half an hour.” We’ve grown much closer together since than we probably would have otherwise.

      • oh yes! I’ve had a few people like that too! and people who have become much better friends since my loss. those people amaze me too.

  6. I’ve always loved this quote:
    “The friend who holds your hand and says the wrong thing is made of dearer stuff than the one who stays away.”
    Barbara Kingsolver

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