I was reminded today how close fear sits to the door of my heart and to the door of the hearts of many bereaved parents.
Once again a mom shared an experience of not being able to get in touch with a surviving child and how that quickly spiraled downward to a frenzy of fear.
To some it may seem like an overreaction. But to those of us for whom the one thing you think won’t happen, HAS happened, it made perfect sense.
Before Dominic was killed on his motorcycle I had the normal parental misgivings about my kids driving here, there and everywhere. I always prayed for them and tossed a, “Be safe!” as they walked out the door with keys in hand.
I shook my head sadly, teared up and felt awful when I saw an accident report on the news.
But I lived in the protective bubble of never having actually experienced sudden, tragic loss and I was blissfully unaware of how quickly and how completely life could change.
Now I know.
And fear creeps up my back and takes hold of my heart in an instant if anything unusual prevents a loved one from answering his or her phone when I think they should.
In the first couple of years I could not stop it. I was at the mercy of my feelings and my mind was quickly overwhelmed with all the “what ifs” and would imagine every possible awful outcome.
So our family put some simple protocols in place to help everyone’s heart.
We text or call when we arrive safely somewhere; we offer alternative phone numbers if traveling with others so there’s a second means of contact; we know that if one of us calls another repeatedly it’s important and regardless of where we are or what we are doing, we need to pick up; and if we are on a longer trip with multiple stops we provide an itinerary.
Now I’ve learned a bit better how to push irrational thoughts away, to focus on the probable and to allow a little time and space for someone to get back in touch with me.
It’s hard and requires great effort.
But I was reminded just the other day that no matter how hard you try or how much you work to push those feelings away, they can threaten to overtake you regardless.
My dad and I talk every morning. He texts me when he’s up and I call him when I’m done with morning chores. On his end, two texts, one hour apart, had gone through to my phone with no response. He finally called me because he was afraid something was wrong.
The same day, I began a conversation with my daughter by saying, “Your brother called…” at which point she immediately asked what happened. I realized my mistake for starting with those words and quickly assured her everything was just fine.
You never forget making or receiving that phone call delivering the unchangeable and unbelievable awful news.
I am still prone to jump to conclusions.
If it happened once, it can happen again.
But I’m trying hard to learn to live in a less friendly, less safe world than I once depended upon. So I aim my heart and mind in the direction of the most likely instead of the most awful.
On the best days, it works. ❤