I went to my favorite discount store to see the new fall clothing. While I was pushing my cart past a woman, I commented, “Passing on the right.” After I passed the woman I turned to her and said, “We’re looking at long-sleeved tops. It’s hard to believe summer is over and fall is here.” She smiled a bit and looked at me.
“I’m here to buy something to wear to my mother’s memorial service,” she said. “My mother died two days ago.”
“I’m so sorry,” I said.
The woman went on to tell me her 29-year-old son committed suicide last year. She didn’t understand his suicide and hasn’t felt the same since. Two deaths, so close together, had clearly devastated this mother.
Still standing by the rack of long-sleeved tops, I told her I was a grief writer. I asked her if she knew about The Compassionate Friends and Open to Hope. While she had heard of The Compassionate Friends, Open to Hope was new to her. Fumbling around in my wallet, I gave her my business card, and told her to log into the website.
“It’s an online community for those who are grieving,” I explained. “It’s a reliable community and I think you will find many helpful articles there. You can post on the blogs, too.”
Each of us started telling our grief stories. She said she hadn’t been able to move forward in life since her son died, and showed me a photo of her two boys. Her second son had just married. I told her about the multiple losses I suffered in 2007 and how my husband and I became guardians of our orphaned twin grandchildren.
“How are they doing?” she asked. “They both graduated from high school with honors and both received college scholarships,” I replied. “I just sent them off to their senior years at college.” Without any warning, tears filled my eyes. “And I’m going to cry,” I said. The woman started to cry, reached out, and gave me a hug. I hugged her in return.
There we stood, two grieving woman next to long-sleeved tops, two women who met each other by chance and offered each other comfort. Impulsively, I reached for a long-sleeved green top, held it up to the woman and said, “This would look nice on you.”
She looked at me thoughtfully. “Since my son died, strange things have happened,” she admitted. “I met you by chance today. You started the conversation. You’re a grief writer and green is my color.” Her voice trailed off.
I don’t know if meeting this woman was providential or not, but I do know each of us benefited from it. We shared our feelings and comforted one another. That is the journey of grief, the loss of a child, and the challenge of creating a new life without that child. Each of us has her own journey, yet I hope I will meet this woman again. I am grateful for her comfort and hope she is grateful for mine.