The Grief Club

“I am going to need you to help me through this,” was the message my sister-in-law sent to me in a text.

We’ve been through a lot together – she’s been in our family over 30 years. We’ve had some great times, and she knows I would never tell her no – unless she wanted to do something illegal. But, oh, I so wanted to tell her, “no, I can’t help you this time.”

Problem is, I have the experience to help her. And I wish I didn’t. She wishes she didn’t need my help. But she does.

She is now part of the club. The club we didn’t ever want to join. The club that has the most expensive membership of all. The dues are high – no one wants to pay them. No one wants entry into the “My Dad Died Club.”

My dad died sixteen months before her’s did. Both of our dads died due to complications of Alzheimer’s Disease. That life-sucking, memory-killing, obnoxious, horrid, dreaded stupid disease took down two good guys that we loved dearly. She watched us suffer and she supported us. We watched her suffer and we supported her. Our families are like so many others these days, witnessing this awful disease and its devastation.

So when she called me, crying, and asking me to help her, my heart was breaking. Of course I would be there for her. This awful Club is big – and gets bigger every year. I had plenty of friends that were there for me, guiding me and listening to my stories and just being a presence as I grieved – and continue to grieve.

I will be there for her, because I know what she will go through, and it won’t be easy.

She will experience a wide range of emotions, and it shouldn’t surprise her to laugh and cry at the same time, though she will think she’s lost it.

She will smile at his memory, and cry when she hears his favorite song – sometimes simultaneously.

Her birthday will never be the same. Nor will his.

The first year of holidays will be difficult to get through, but she will do so for her children.

Father’s Day will be difficult.

The anniversary of his passing will sting. She may relive each and every moment, not because she wants to remember the suffering, but because those moments, as hard as they were, are the last precious minutes she spent with him. And difficult though they may be, she will savor the memory.

She will see a gray-haired gentleman and look for her dad.

She will turn to ask him something, and then she will cry.

Her days will feel empty. Her heart will feel heavy.

The best advice I received regarding the grief process was from a dear friend. She gently said, “You can’t go around it; you just have to go right through it.”

My sister-in-law will get through it with the help of those who’ve been there. We will love her and support her when she is a sobbing mess one minute… and back to her usual self the next.

We seasoned Club members will pray for her. We will hurt for her.

We will get it when she calls her dad, “Daddy.”

We will understand why she wants to talk about him. And we will encourage her to continue to talk to him.

We will understand her needing time to process this great loss. And we know it may never make any sense.

We know that, even though she won’t believe it today, that each day makes one a little bit stronger.

We will encourage her to cry, and tell her stupid jokes to make her laugh.

We know she will survive, because so far, we have.

We know she is stronger than she thinks she is, because when we were told we were strong, we didn’t believe it, either.

We know that when it is her time to comfort someone who enters the Club, she will do so with grace. It will be hard, because she will remember her own hurt. She will cry for the new member, because she knows their pain.

But she will love and guide her friend, because that is what we Club members do.

And our dads would be proud.

© 2012 – Lynne Cobb

This entry was posted in Alzheimer's and the family, Faith and Prayer, My Take on the Subject, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

15 Responses to The Grief Club

  1. thethingaboutjoan says:

    I’m so sorry for your sister-in-law and hate the fact that at some point, all of us become members of this club. Very poignant words and excellent advice from your friend who noted that you can’t go around grief.

  2. jill m. mackie says:

    My heart goes out to her . . . as I face AGAIN the “year of firsts” . . . life goes on without our loved ones. I just wish I could turn THAT part of my brain off sometimes . . . Peace be with you & yours.

    • Lynne says:

      You too, Jill. It is a tough time for so many, and it is good we have each other to offer support. Thinking of you, too!

  3. Cindy La Ferle says:

    Ah, sad and very true, Lynne. I started a membership to a similar ‘club’ after reading a book on parent loss (I will have to dig up that review for you, which I did for the Trib). I called mine (privately, and among friends) The Dead Parents Society. Until you go through it and endure the first few anniversaries of a deceased parent’s birthday, as well as the holidays, you just can’t comprehend the great void that you feel for a couple of years afterward.

    A tender post you have shared here — and I wish you and your family great strength as you soldier on.

    P.S. My beloved dad has been gone since 1998, but I still shed a few tears for him at my son’s wedding on Saturday. I hired a bagpiper to play at the recessional — in honor of my dad, his Scottish parents, and my dear uncle. It was a fine tribute and really helped me feel as if they were all there with us. (But hey, I still can’t look at the Father’s Day cards at Hallmark.)

    • Lynne says:

      Cindy, thank you. My heart just broke for her, as I know others felt that way for me, too. I believe that for the rest of my days I will shed a tear or two. But that’s okay – it means I was blessed enough to have known such a powerful love, as were you, my sister-in-law and many others. 🙂

  4. bobwonnacott says:

    Lynne – It’s always nice to have a friend to lean on during those times when grief strikes due to the loss of a loved one. Some of us have gone through this multiple times. I’ve lost my father, mother and spouse and the grief process never changes. There is no choice – you must go through this process as you mentioned. I find myself more available to people entering the grief process. However, when a tragedy strikes you again and you find yourself grieving, it’s the members of the Grief Club that can come to the rescue! Thanks for writing such an excellent story on a very sensitive subject! I pray that the Grief Club does not grow too fast, but everyone will eventually become a member and we are there to help! Many times, just a listening ear and some compassion can go a long way.

    • Lynne says:

      Thanks, Bob. I often wondered how you survived your losses, and have always admired your compassion to others. You truly lead by example – you are an inspiration for all of us 🙂

  5. Stephanie says:

    Lynne my heart is breaking – my grandmother had very advanced stages of Alzheimer’s too. It was the hardest thing I ever went through watching her deteriorate. It’s been 2 years and I still find myself grieving. I cook her foods as a way to keep her close to me, the smells remind me of her. I will keep your SIL in my prayers.

  6. Lynn M. Lewis says:

    Your blog is beautiful, I read it aloud to your sister-in-law – (my sister) with the realization that everything going forward is going to be different. Your family is a blessing to her, and we appreciate all the prayers. Your Dad was a wonderful man, kind and funny and sweet just like ours. I hate being in this club – but am thankful that God has put loving people in our path to help light the way. You are loved and appreciated.

    • Lynne says:

      I wish none of us had to go through this, and I was blessed to have others help me along, too. You and your sister are blessings to our family, too. We’ll get through this together, and just let us know if you need anything. Thanks for reading and posting! xoxo

  7. Karen @BakingInATornado says:

    Although this post is 3 years old, I’m still sorry for your loss, Lynne. And I’m sorry to now be a member of this group.

  8. Pingback: Autumn, Grief and Season of Change - Lynne CobbLynne Cobb

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