What I learned about having close relationships.

Jacob passed away on a Sunday. And it was 5:00 P.M. on that Sunday that we found him and started doing CPR. From that day on, our Sunday evenings had become a painful loop that played back in our minds over and over again. We dreaded waking up each Sunday; knowing we were going to relive in our minds the events of that day one hour at a time. As the clock got closer to 5:00 P.M., the more adrenaline started pumping through our bodies and our imaginations took us back to June 12. It became overwhelming because we thought our Sundays were always going to be a cursed day full of flashbacks and sadness. 

When we told our therapist about this, she asked us if there was something we could start doing to distract ourselves on Sunday evenings. She said it would help if we had people that would come spend time with us so we weren't stuck inside our own heads. So, Brea and I talked about it and decided to start having a standing dinner with friends and family every Sunday evening.

We put the word out - "if you are available, please come have dinner with us." We couldn't have been more blessed by the willingness of people to come be with us. Some Sundays we had a house full and some we had one person. The fact was - we had a community of people who stood by us when we needed them most.

With each week, the people that spent time with us brought a little more light into our life when it was filled with darkness. Also, the more people we had around us, the more moments of laughter and joy brought back hope that we would find a way to the other side of this. 

On one of those Sunday's, some of our closest friends drove up with a little tree in the back their truck. They told us it was a tree for Jacob and that we could all plant it together. The family and friends over that day pitched in and helped us plant "Jacob's Tree." After it was planted we stood around while one of our friends read something she wrote to dedicate the tree for Jacob. This gesture and act of kindness touched Brea and I deeply. And, it's something that we will never forget. Every time I look at that tree, I do think of Jacob. But, I also remember that we're not alone and that we have people who care for us and love us.

Photo Credit: Kevin Curtis

In his book Resilience: The Science of Mastering Life's Greatest Challenges, Dr. Steven Southwick, writes about ten common traits found among resilient people. I once heard a talk he gave where he said one of the top contributors to recovering from trauma was the community you had supporting you. From our own experience and from witnessing other families who have lost a child - the progress made was significantly affected by the strength of the network of family and friends that surrounded them.

In the busyness of our lives we often neglect building friendships. The older we get, the more work and demands of raising children take up the bulk of our time and focus. And, when life happens, we wonder why no one is around to help. At our core, all of us are afraid of being alone. And, some of our loneliest times can be during our darkest moments.

As humans, we all yearn to feel loved and cared for.

The people who surrounded us day after day, for months, are one of the biggest reasons we are able to live a good life again when we didn't think it would be possible. Without them, there is no way we would be where we are today. We are truly blessed to have such loving and faithful people around us.

It's so important that we make a conscious effort to build relationships. If you don't feel like you've got a strong community around you, then start building one today. Practice hospitality and have people over for dinner. Start going to church. Join a small group within your church. Do something to connect with other people and do it often. 

Not only is it wonderful to enjoy friendships and family during good times, but those relationships become even more important to help hold us up in the bad times. This is a two way street. Your family and friends are going to need you too. And, the absolute best thing you can give them is your simple presence. Sit with them and hold them when they need it. They won't remember what you said. But, they'll never forget that you showed up.


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