I graduated from Boston College in 1983. I had transferred there at the beginning of my sophomore year and met three other women in the transfer orientation program. We eventually lived together, played rugby, and hung out at the local haunts. We roller skated along the Charles, saw The Commodores live in concert, and danced on the coffee table to the B-52’s into the wee hours.
We graduated, moved back to our home states, and settled down. We married, had children, divorced, held jobs, lost jobs, went to graduate school, moved halfway across the country, married again, and settled down again. We’ve known each other for thirty-five years, and while a year may go by without contact, we share Christmas cards and can always pick up right where we left off. Five years ago we reunited for a wedding, and a few weekends ago we reunited for a death.
We cried, we laughed, we hugged. We hiked in the woods, drank many cups of java and dined on tapas at a delicious Spanish restaurant. We shared our struggles raising children with/without special needs, our challenges at our jobs, and our ups and downs of married life. We reminisced about the past, dreamed about the future, and challenged each other to make creative changes today. We have all buried a parent, (or two), a sibling, and now a husband.
Part of our grieving was the sharing of our feelings. He was only fifty-seven. How does that happen? We felt sad, confused, angry, scared, quiet, lonely, concerned, guilty. So many emotions swirled around the four of us, and so many questions. Some said aloud, like “Why him?” Others left silent, thinking, “Who’s next?”
I believe that sadness is a feeling of loss. We have tears of letting go of something we had, but lost. A job, friendship, house, future. Sadness is about slowing down, feeling the loss and realizing perhaps it was never meant to be.
But I believe grief is different. It is about diving deep within to feel so we may be forever changed. Silence, tears, journaling, and more tears to feel connected to and face the separation from the person we lost. With tears we release. We acknowledge that a part of us is forever gone, never to be replaced. It is not pretending we are “okay” but acknowledging we are not. We are sad, mad, confused. We feel real, human. We eventually come to understand that death is a part of life. And then slowly, over time, one day, accepting. It is tough stuff.
We didn’t come up with many answers, but the process of digging into the emotions and then sharing them with each other felt safe, warm, and familiar. I feel so blessed that I have these women in my life, that I know are there for me in a crisis, and there for me to watch silly movies with. I know they feel my pain and my joy. They are real. Real women. Real courageous women. In the word Courage, Cour is latin, and means heart, which is a common metaphor for inner strength. I saw such inner strength in these women, as they were not afraid to share. I am blessed by their love, their courage, their stories. Here’s to another thirty-five years of friendship. I love you three.