Tag Archives: you are not alone

Reaching Out

The best relief from my own grief comes when I reach out to help someone else in their troubles. But one thing I still find impossibly hard is to reach out for help when I’m the one suffering.

Last week, driving back from the airport after saying goodbye to the one I love most in this world, I had to pull off the road and stop the car several times, unable to see through my tears. Finally arriving home, I howled in the driveway, begging, pleading, praying, …sobbing into my dog’s fur. I tried to summon my courage, strength, the spirits of my dead father and daughter. I even called on god. But the aching grew worse.

“Love the grief. Learn to live with the pain,” and “You are not alone, you can do this,” I went through all my mantras aloud. I desperately wanted to go back in time, to the night before, when we’d clinked our glasses of whiskey. “To you and your adventure,” I’d said cheerfully, looking more at the ice swimming in the whiskey than at the eyes of the one I love. Now there would be no eyes to watch, no celebrating, no more late nights toasting to the future.

Empty-nest-syndrome. A hole in my heart almost as big as when my daughter died. No need to bother anyone else about this, I told myself. Don’t be a burden, don’t be a wimp. It was late enough I could simply take a pill and go to sleep. And I thought how sad it was, having no one to announce to, “I’m going to bed.” And that started the tears and howling all over again until I thought of someone who might understand. Gasping for breath, I phoned her.

After sputtering out my story I said, “I’m okay, I just needed someone to say goodnight to.” That was pretty much true. So every day since, I’ve been phoning family and friends. Good morning. Goodnight. And sometimes I don’t know anymore if I’m reaching out to help or be helped. But maybe it’s all the same in the end.

 

What does reaching out mean to you?

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Following and Friending

Robin Botie of ithaca, New York, photoshops her drawing of tesselation puppies with a photograph of pond algae.A book I once read began with a proposal – what if all the lonely people in New York City were to open their windows at 11PM and howl into the night sky? To me this is the image of Facebook and Twitter, only, there the whole world is howling, and people from all over find and follow one another. The cacophony seeps into everyone’s emailboxes as each hollering is echoed and replied to, over and over. A recent yowling of my own on Facebook received a massive 90 likes. Lots of comments. I joyfully followed and friended and thanked as many fellow yowlers as I could.

My daughter blogged when she got cancer in 2008. Back then I thought blogging was some sort of techie cult activity; I didn’t dare visit her site. But people followed her and she felt supported. Following her death, I tried to follow her lead, first venturing into Facebook, eventually journeying on to Twitter and Pinterest. I set up my own website and blog. I followed all the rules, followed people’s advice, and followed my heart – and still ended up crying alone in the car every day. In a daze, I followed my friends who dragged me out of the house. I followed my dead daughter to Australia. I followed her dog into the woods, over streambeds, and through grassy fields.

These days I follow people in online groups: communities around child loss, cancer, gratitude, hiking, food, signs from departed loved ones. In the process of all this following, I apologize if I’ve become a nuisance, nagging you to “like” my new Facebook writer page, pestering you to subscribe to my blog. There are differences between followers and friends, I’ve learned. As an author building a platform, I value them both.

“All your hard work will soon be paid off,” reads the Chinese cookie-fortune taped onto my computer. It is paying off. The “friends” I’m finding by increasing my social media presence make me laugh. They make me cry. Mostly, they make me feel that I am not alone. In the middle of the night I tweet to a bloke in England. I chat with a mum in Australia. During my days dashing around Ithaca I smile, embarrassed, but delighted to be stopped.
“I loved your last blog,” said a woman at the gym, who I know only from Facebook.
“We’re “friends,” said a stranger in a restaurant, “on Facebook.”

 

Where do you find new friends? How does the internet add value to your life?

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