Choosing To Stay Poem by Shaakiera Schroeder

Choosing To Stay

Rating: 5.0

My friends’ son died! There I said it! He didn’t pass away or go home or any of the hundreds of euphemisms that people choose to use, he died, he’s gone and he is never coming back!

353 days,50 Wednesdays after the fact and all still seem so unreal. There is not a day that passes that I wake up and not think…how can this be?
How could this happen to her?
I cannot stand that she is experiencing this magnitude of pain and the worst realization of it all is that she will have to endure it for the rest of her life!
I try to imagine what she might be feeling but it is an impossible task. I measure it by what I’m feeling and I think “if I feel so torn up…it must be a million times worse for her”
She described it once saying “it feels like your womb has been literally ripped out and you walking around bleeding all the time” where her heart use to be, there is now only a gaping hole filled with nothing but emptiness.

She has always had the most animated face of anyone I know…her eyes speak volumes without her having to say a single word. After the loss of her son her eyes say nothing… they are vacant. I watch her intimately, but unlike before I have no idea what she is thinking, even her once melodic voice now holds only sadness.
If the eyes are the windows of your soul, then I fear the worst as her eyes are lifeless and reflect nothing!

After listening to several people, most of which are strangers tell me that my friend is blessed to have me. I find myself wondering if what I have done and continue doing is out of the ordinary?
Apparently most sources say it requires real commitment and absolute patience to stick around when your friend becomes a bereaved parent. That it takes a real special person to remain in the darkness. Not for a second did I consider myself to be special…I simply did what I FELT was right! I followed my heart.

My secret: UNCONDITIONAL LOVE and of course mule stubbornness, the kind that screams STAY no matter what!
I refuse to standby and watch Death defeat my friend without giving everything of my being to try and get her through this. After all real failure comes in not even trying!
For me “not being there” was NOT an option…with love as my advantage everything else followed naturally!
The fact that I experienced great loss when my mom died when I was fifteen years old spurred me on. I never want her to feel that alone, the way I did back then, because even though you have many supportive people around you, when one is grieving you still always feel achingly alone!
For others, things may not come as naturally. After all our pain thresholds, how much we can handle, differs.
When I lost my mom I asked “why me” until near insanity, Fifteen years later my closest friend loses her boy and I fear I got my answer! I now believe that I was being prepared for this very important purpose.
My journey starts on the 01st of April 2009.
I was awoken by “the call”.Needless to say, it shook me to the core. All I managed to say was her name.
At that very moment I knew my friends’ life would never be the same again,
So to changing my life forever!
When I first saw her I found myself speechless, searching through the millions of words and possible things to say in my brain. I simply put my arms around her and sobbing said “I am here”.
Then did what I know she would want me to do_Sprang into action. Doing everything she wanted to do herself but had no strength for, so as not to make her feel anymore useless than she was already feeling. Everytime she said something, I wanted to be able to say “it’s done- don’t worry” and I think that makes a difference…as her friend I wanted to deal with all the tiny things in order for her to deal with this colossal thing.

Do not make promises you cannot keep.
Do not say “everything will be ok”.
Do not say “its God’s will”.
Do not say “your son is in a better place”.
It’s patronizing and the only thing your friend is thinking is “there is no better place than his mothers’ arms” and “how can this be Gods will to hurt one of his children like this? ”.

I don’t take anything she says or does personal. If I did I might just go insane…
In this horrific time she is super emotionally sensitive! Because of this weigh everything…every issue …every thought… everything carefully. I found that irrelevant people would always bother her with trivial things. Common sense would be to ask yourself “is this really so important that it cannot wait for another time? ”
Most of our arguments stemmed from this: my thinking is “focus on surviving this and ignore things that do not matter. Another friend committed as myself summed it up best when she said “she needs to heal and deal with the death of her son instead of worrying that her friends will leave her or judge her”.

If you are a true friend, it is your duty to ensure that she knows that you are there no matter what. She would lash out so much …more often than not! Say such hurtful things…but how you react is VITAL here! Suck it up! Swallow it! Console yourself with the fact that she loves you and trusts you enough to lash out honestly and without fear. Also she knows just how much you care for her to allow her these sessions of ranting and raving…she knows her friend is right there beside her in all this emptiness. She pushes but her true friends…immovable soldiers …push right back!

As I result of the trauma, shock and travelling through the unknown lands of grief, your friend will be a million different people. I learned very quickly to go with the flow. Follow their pace very carefully…try to keep up! Some days move at lights speed, others seem never to want to end.
Keep in mind the death of your precious child is life altering, so to assume your friends’ has not, is unrealistic.
Nothing will be the same.They may actually break all contact with you for awhile. Let them! Do not put too much pressure on things to go back to “normal”. They need time to grieve alone as a family. During this period all you should do is assure them that when they are ready, whenever that is, you are there…no matter how long it may take. I later learned that my daily text message and emails was appreciated because even when they have no energy to talk, reading about the support and prayers and knowing that you do not have to suffer through this alone…does make a difference, however small.

Helplessness is my constant companion, the only familiar thing, in unfamiliar territory. Well, that and the pain. Residing in your heart and mind …overpowering…so easy to drown in it…but try to stay strong because your friend cannot!
My most powerless, most inadequate moment came early. The morning of the funeral, getting ready, the sound of the shower running triggered so much. My friend collapsed. As I took her in my arms she pleaded “please take this pain away! I can’t take it! Please take this pain away! ! ! ”
I remember crying so hard, all this time struggling to hold her up…refusing to let her fall, when all she wanted to do was sink to the floor and never get up! Today she cannot even remember those days!
This memory however, stuck in my mind. A visual reminder of what it means to stay. Her wanting to lie down and never get up and me refusing to let her!

Remember no matter how glamorous your friend is, she now no longer has the will to live, so doing her hair and nails is the last of her concern, looking pretty will not make her feel better. Leave her be, when she is ready she will get to it!

Suicidal feelings are part of a “natural” process, do not panic, instead just listen, and try to understand. Join forums, grief blogs, ECT. I found that on these platforms I could speak about my feelings of helplessness and learned that I am not alone. Also it has taught me much about what to do and what not to do! If I may dare say, it has equipped me to deal with my friends’ pain.

I live by three (3) simple principles now:
1) Patience: Be patient with your friend. There is no time limit on grief. Do not expect her to get back to her old life just because you think it is time. Remind her to be patient with herself.
2) Listen: I had to learn to shut up and listen. Believe you me a very difficult task, I am very opinionated but there is no way that I could know what she is feeling, listening is the kindest thing you can do.
3) Love: Love your friend enough to put aside any differences you may have. Your love will allow you to bury your weaknesses and insecurities in order to be strong for her. Getting her to an okay place should take precedence over everything.
Throughout this journey you will be faced with many obstacles, most frequently you will be fighting your friend. Be relentless for her sake. Nag her to eat and sleep even if she does not want to hear it.

Her pain touches me so deeply. Raw emotion as she shares pierces my soul everytime. My heart literally breaks when she speaks about missing her Boy. All this time, hurting for her I feel helpless!
However this is not about me. It is about being there unselfishly day and night, willing to suffer in silence, as you remain strong. Many people will turn away. You will be punished for what appears to be their betrayal. When they turn away there will be many justifications as to why…one being “they cannot see their friends like this”.
NEWSFLASH! None of us can!
I do not blame anyone that is unable to stay in this pain. It is at its best the most unbearable thing anyone has to deal with. However, it is merely a case of asking yourself how much your friend means to you and does she mean more to you than your own weaknesses and fears. Then take it from there.
This has perhaps been the most difficult time in my adult life. There are days where I think “I can’t anymore! ” I come so close to giving up. Either her grief becomes too much to handle or her words or actions hurt more than she realizes!
In these rock bottom moments I recite a little mantra.
I say over and over:
“It’s not personal. She loves me. She’s hurting. Her grief and fear is overwhelming. She appreciates me! I will not let her push me away! Even though she wants to be alone, it is the last thing she needs! GOD HELP ME BE STRONG! ”
These simple words do not only renew my emotional strength but it also strengthens the commitment I made, a promise to her, but more so a promise to myself to love and to do so unconditionally!
Eleven months later and not much has changed. The only constant being her pain and me feeling hopeless and helpless! Always praying for more strength and her peace, My helplessness now however, is accompanied by the gratifying knowledge that she knows without a doubt that she is not alone in the darkness. I will not let go of her hand. I AM HERE!
The days are a constant rollercoaster. So many twists and turns. More downs than ups, leaves you gasping for air, almost always chocking on tears, but as we remember her precious Child a smile steals across her face and in that smile I see a glimmer of hope. A tiny sliver that makes me believe that one day, it may be years from now, but one day she will feel the light again.
And as we struggle day by day, months passing us by, the years looming, I am here holding her hand in the darkness, praying for the light we know is there!

I will remain here with her forever. When her time on earth is up, I will pray for her reunion with her Son. I will feel her light shine through my soul and I will know…GOD help me, I will know, she is … EVENTUALLY AT PEACE! !

Shaakiera Schroeder.

Article published in the summer edition of a USA based magazine
“We need not walk alone” featured under “friends of the bereaved parent'

Shaakiera Schroeder

Shaakiera Schroeder

Johannesburg South Africa
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