I was at a park in Laguna Beach with Jessie this morning and started chatting with another mom who happened to be there with her two little girls. As we made small talk, I asked her how old her kids are, and after sharing their ages, she mentioned that they are 18 months apart. She described the challenges of having two young kids that are so close in age. I indicated that I could relate because my kids are 19 months apart.
“Oh, you have another one?” she inquired.
“Yes, Jessie has an older brother,” I responded, leaving it at that.
She continued with her questions. “So that means he must be around 3 years old. Is he in preschool right now?”
She was unwittingly steering headlong into my loss. I hesitated, wondering whether I should try to avoid the awkwardness that often ensues when I mention Jud’s death with unsuspecting strangers. But instead, I took a deep sigh, looked her right in the eye and said, “Actually, my son died 3 months ago in November.”
Though clearly surprised, she responded with grace, compassion, and care-more than most unfamiliar people with whom I have shared my story. “Oh, I am so sorry. I cannot even imagine what you are going through right now. Wow! Thank you for sharing with me.”
I indicated how much I appreciated her warmth and expression of sympathy.
She paused, and then with tremendous sensitivity asked, “Do you mind if I ask you questions about your son, or would you prefer to not talk about it?” I was so impressed! Few strangers, much less acquaintances, have the boldness to ask me directly how I feel conversing about Judson; they usually just avoid it altogether.
Encouraged by her kind, yet forthright approach, I replied, “Absolutely! I appreciate you asking, and I am more than willing to talk about it. I have come to realize that if we never converse about these things, then we never learn how to engage one another in loss. Feel free to ask me anything.”
And so she did. She asked me how Jud died, what the process was like when I first went to the pediatrician with concern, about the progression of his symptoms, about my grief process, and more. As we were pleasantly chatting, she suddenly paused, and then posed the question, “Are you part of the MOMS club of Costa Mesa?”
Perplexed by the question, I answered, “I am.”
“I know your story!” she said, “I am part of the Dana Point MOMS Club and we were informed of your situation and Jud’s disease a couple months before he died. As you were talking, it all sounded so familiar.”
This immediately provided her context for my grief and increased our connection. I was touched. It also brought to my attention the numerous ways in which people have shared our story-turning strangers into friends during our season of sorrow. What a gift!