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A Son in Law in a Storm

I should have seen it coming, but I didn’t. It was Friday morning, on my way to work, and I was surprised by the violence of the weather. It’s definitely summer when there is a powerful thunder and lightning storm at six thirty in the morning. I usually like thunderstorms, but this morning I was already on edge. Today was the real estate closing of my mom and dad’s condo in Florida. It was their last home. It was the last place that they were. They lived there and somewhere in my childish brain, I didn’t want to let it go. I guess I thought I might still be able to go there and they would be sitting in their recliners, watching the news, eating their snacks. It was irrational but grief can be tricky like that.

Of course, because I’m expert at this, I was stuffing all my feelings. I was BUSY with the business of life, so I didn’t have to FEEL. I have a PHD in avoidance. If pretending not to hurt was an Olympic event, I’d take the gold, silver and bronze. I’m that good.

There was a huge simultaneous bolt of lightening and a clap of thunder so loud that it shook me. It felt like it shot right into the car. I’m a grown woman in my sixties. I understand I’m safe. But at that moment, I turned into a three year old. I was truly terrified. I called my forty year old daughter, Robin. Her line went straight to voice mail. I started crying. The rain was pouring so hard that cars were pulling over. My wipers were on as fast as they could go. The next number on the list was Robin’s husband, Sean. He is a lovely man but not necessarily my first choice after Robin. I was desperate for a voice. It turned out to be a blessing in the most delightful way.

Sean picked up right away. I was crying and I said, “I’m scared Sean. I’m really scared.” This amazing son in law was the perfect example of how to help people in pain and grief. That’s why I’m sharing this story.

Sean said every right thing, in every right way. He may not know it, unless he reads this, and I hope he doesn’t, because I said he was a coincidental and convenient choice based on the alphabet.

Sean was first of all, very calm and asked, “What’s going on?” I just kept saying, “I don’t know, I’m terrified. I’m just so scared. The storm, the lightning….. I’m sorry Sean….” He was perfect. Did I use that word already? Perfect is the perfect word. He didn’t overreact. He said, sweetly and calmly “You’re ok. You’re ok.” I then fell apart completely and said “I want my mom. I want my dad. I need them here.” Yes, I was truly a toddler at that moment and that was fine with my son in law. He seemed to understand and said, “I know you miss them. This is really hard.” I said, “Can you stay on the phone with me until I get off the exit?” He said, “Of course. You are okay.” When I was safely off the exit, my hysteria had subsided and I apologized to him for being insane.” He replied, “Don’t apologize, I’m glad you called me. You are off the exit? You are okay.”

The ”Son in Law Sean School of Handling grief and Fear” is this:

Be present

Be calm-soothing tones

Allow emotions

Listen. JUST listen


Stay with the person until they let you go

I’m grateful for that moment. I’m grateful to the storm. The bolt of lighting brought out the real emotions I was avoiding. I miss my mom. I miss my dad. I am sad that the last home they lived in was sold and someone else was moving in. It was all so final. I guess I thought I could outrun their deaths. I thought I could outrun my emotions.

Mother nature (God) and my son in law allowed me a “Holy moment” and I am blessed.

I hope you have a “Sean.” I will remember to be Sean-like in someone else’s life.

God bless you in your grief journey.


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