Socializing > Social Encounters

Exit the Firefighters - Re-post

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hachi:
Exit the Firefighters

canadiangirl

A little while back there was a good article in the NYTimes called "the Art of Presence" which related one family's tragedies and how their friends supported them through it. That family felt that the response took two forms: the firefighters, who dropped everything in the crisis and problem-solved at the time, and the builders, who were there quietly before and after, and who continued to help long after the crisis had passed. Both were very valuable.

The firefighters have left the building. I knew it would happen, 3 months out, but they have gone. It's funny how, almost without exception, my oldest and previously closest friends have been in and out occasionally but other friends have had the longevity and staying power, and have become my closest friends as a result. It has been humbling to see these people act with complete dignity, respect and love. I felt loved by all of them, but I miss the firefighters. I am so grateful for the builders. Support is dwindling away, and it is so natural, so expected, especially because I do not always respond right away to emails and offers, but I miss it.

Probably most of all because it means that the crisis has passed, and I have to pick up the pieces, and I am just not ready. The fire still burns in my heart.
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southernsoul

This really resonated with me, perhaps especially because my husband died in a fire 7 weeks ago today. It's still very early days for me, but I know to expect some changes over the next however long in who sticks around for the long haul. I am so grateful for the wonderful family & friends I am blessed with. No matter how it all shakes out over the long run, I have appreciated the support & love I've received from all of them. I hope that when it begins dwindling away I will be strong enough to carry on, but I'm not sure if that's the same as being "ready" to do so. Hugs to you, canadiangirl!
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hikermom
 
That is a perfect metaphor to what has happened to so many of us. In the early days people gather in response to the crisis but really, for them, the fire burns itself out quickly.
Little do they know how long it smolders in our hearts and souls.
So glad you have some builders around you. The saying of rewriting your address book is very true - widowhood really does separate the wheat from the chaff in our life. (Could I really spew any more metaphors???)

I did find that even after 3 months, it helped people if I were really clear in asking for what I needed. Honestly, in the first 3 months people asked me what I needed and I had no idea. I was completely lost and could not see my way through the fog of grief to even know what I needed. Ironically, it is as we are emerging from that fog and can actually see what we need that people start disappearing. I got very concrete. Winter was approaching and I needed help with wood splitting and stacking, putting the gardens to bed, raking leaves, etc. My husband's work had asked what I needed right after he died so this is when I called in the chips. I organized a work party and about 20 people from his office came to do everything. All I did was cook lunch for them and supervise.

Any time you can clearly identify a need, put someone on it. They will stick around for another 3 - 6 months (maybe) but only if you are clear about your needs.

I'm so sorry you found yourself in the position of needing this board but glad you did find us.
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hachi

Wow! This hit me very close to my heart. In 2007 my family lost our home in a fire. At the time it was probably the worst thing that had ever happened to me. And the first time in our marriage that my husband was not sure of what to do.

To take the analogy one step further, 7 years later, the builders are long gone, the new house is beautiful. And life has gone on with new challenges. The firefighter and builders are still out there, doing what they do in the community. I see them occasionally, and still feel grateful.

But every now and then, I am wistful about the old house. I miss it's uniqueness, it's quirks, and mostly, the experiences that we shared there.

I wonder if years from now, the analogy will hold true, and I will only be wistful, instead of heartbroken...
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canadiangirl

Southernsoul- There are no words. Thank you for responding - I so hope that while trying to articulate some challenges, my choice of words and subject did not unintentionally cause you pain. Hugs right back!

hikermom -Great advice, thank you. I think I am being clear and yet people are not always picking up on it, so I will keep trying. I loved your recent piece about where you are now, and also the e.e.cummings signature.

hachi- You are a brave person -thank you for taking the analogy further in a beautiful way, it really helps me to know you and the others above "get it".
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B_wife

I remember reading this NY times article and totally relating to it. I'm a bit over 19 months out and I've let a lot of previously close friends go but have made new friends who I think will stick around. My own father 'left me alone' because he didn't want to bother me - I haven't seen him since my husbands funeral in July 2012 and I don't care to even try to repair that relationship when he left me stranded. Ironically, his wife (my stepmother) was widowed in her 40s so the fact that she never encouraged him to simply be 'present' for me makes it sting even worse.

Enough about me... What I wanted to say is that it is completely normal for this to happen. Most people can't deal with death and that's great for them, until they go through it. This experience has hardened me -- and that's both good and bad. I try to empathize with other people's tragedies but for those people who abandoned me when I most needed them, I will not forgive. Sorry, life is too short and there are people around who will be there for you.

oh, one more group of people that they left out of the article -- the rubberneckers. Those people who stare at your tragedy as it's happening yet don't step in to put out the fire.

AC:
Thank you Hachi for sharing this. I was well beyond the firefighter stage when this was first posted, but I clearly remember how much it resonated with my own experience as well as with what I saw shared on the board. Hats off to canadagirl and all the other contributors for this one.

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