“We rise by lifting others “. ~ Robert Ingersoll
I’m a widow. On top of that, I have health problems and I go through depression at times. All of those things are a lot harder if you feel like you have to go through them alone.
I’ve always been a very independent person and not the kind who likes to ask for help. But when I lost my husband, I absolutely knew that I couldn’t make it through my grief alone. So I went to a therapist and I kept the phone number for the suicide hotline by my bed and even got a prescription for anti-depressants. But those were fairly impersonal types of help and not really what I needed. My husband had been the one who always provided all of my comfort and love and support and now he was gone. What I needed was kindness and love. Not a prescription.
I realized that the only way I was going to make it through was to swallow my pride and step out of my comfort zone and just ask for what I needed. I was reluctant to do it. I didn’t want to “bug” people or make anyone uncomfortable. And I certainly thought it would break me even more if I asked for what I needed and people rejected my needs. But I felt suicidal. I wasn’t sure I could live at that moment without the right help. So I reached out.
Once I got brave enough to start asking, it didn’t take long for me to learn that there are other people who are so compassionate and understanding that they offered their hand or a listening ear or a warm embracing hug if I was just willing to show my vulnerability and ask for it when I needed it.
Not everyone is able to offer the kind of compassionate support that is needed for the critical times of your life. And one of the first lessons I learned was to be understanding about that and to accept what people have available to offer and to never get mad or offended if people were not able to offer the support I needed. Some people can offer more than others. Some people can’t offer anything at all, and that’s okay.
Some of the best people I found were in social media groups like Facebook and other online sources. Misery may not necessarily LOVE company, but misery understands misery. Other widows and widowers understand each other just as other people with health problems understand the people who share those issues.
Sometimes all it took was someone to listen, or to make me laugh, or to distract me. Other times, such as before an impending hurricane, I had people just show up at my door to help because they knew I needed it.
And what I found out is that there was almost always someone out there who had their hand reaching out, just ready to grab me when I was falling and to help pull me up to where I needed to be. I just had to ask. And I was so grateful for the love and the help that I began to offer it to others because I understood how important that it was and that we all probably need it at one time or another.
People — sometimes complete strangers — offered me love to take the place of the love that I was missing. But they also offered me a place to GIVE love, which was just as important to my well-being as receiving it. It seemed like sort of a chain of love. Sometimes everything was going well and I was at the top of the chain, checking in with others to see if anyone needed help. And other times I was at the bottom, reaching out, looking for a loving hand to reach back to me.
The thing is, I think that we all go through some pretty stressful things in life and I feel like I have had my share. And I really don’t know if I would have survived those things if I hadn’t learned to become a part of that chain of love. It is in both the giving and the receiving that I find my strength.