“I don’t know how to get passed this.”
I uttered those words through the phone to my sister. She tried to comfort me by explaining how she’d had a hard time when her co-worker’s mother passed away.
It wasn’t the same.
I had no bar, no past experience to measure this grief by. I had lost a friend. Tragically. In a way that no rational mind can understand. And it hit me hard.
But what made it harder was that she wasn’t really a friend, at least not in the traditional sense of the word. She was a Facebook friend, a former grade school classmate who I knew through mutual friends. I hadn’t even seen her since high school, hadn’t interacted with her then and hadn’t thought about her since. Then she sent me a friend request.
Here was this girl, who had been her class president, had been a cheerleader, had been popular, had been all the things I wasn’t in high school, requesting to be my friend on Facebook.I was exhilarated and intimated all at the same time.
She posted a lot and I really felt like I was getting to know her, even though we barely engaged online. I keep meaning to reach out to her…
And then she was gone.
Her life was cut short by her husband’s act of violence. He shot her and their three children while they slept one April night and then shot himself the next day.
I remember vividly the day they were discovered. It was sunny and beautiful, literally and figuratively. A few months prior, I realized I was suffering from late onset post partum depression and then my son’s food allergies were diagnosed. On this April day, we’d gone shopping as a family and for once being in public with an infant didn’t give me anxiety. I felt like the fog was lifting.
When we got home that evening, there was a voicemail from my mother-in-law wondering if we’d heard about the tragedy in our community. I went online and saw their names on the homepage of our local paper.
“No, No, No!” was all I could say.
I went on Facebook to her page and saw post after post, friend after friend, in disbelief and grief.
That was a year and a half ago and there are still days when I don’t believe it happened, don’t believe she’s gone. Those days aren’t as many now but I still think about her often, usually when I’m tucking my son in for the night. My mind will drift to her tucking in her children on that last night and I cry.
I still don’t know how to get passed this but I’m trying. Six months after her death, I started writing letters to Francie as a way of coping with what happened to her. In recognition of Domestic Violence Awareness month, I will be sharing some of those letters on my blog in October.
When acts of violence happen, every one pays attention while its front page news. But then time passes and the community at large moves on and forgets, leaving those effected to grieve alone. I hope to raise awareness by sharing this experience.
This post was inspired by Mama Kat’s Writer’s Workshop…and by Francie, may she rest in peace.