(Part of my tribe on my birthday. Photo credit: Sarah)
There is something to say for the people who stick by you when things get hard.
My entire world was shattered, I had nothing to give, and many needs. Needs that weren’t easy to meet. My friends couldn’t come just turn off my grief, they could only sit there and love me in the midst of it. They could only hold my hand and hope I kept taking steps forward.
The other day I was discussing relationships with a friend of mine. More specifically we were discussing friends. I tend to see my friends in three different categories- acquaintance friends, friends, and my tribe. This topic has become very important to me this year. Grief and death do crazy things. After my husband passed away there were people I thought were close, who all the sudden disappeared, it’s safe to say they don’t know how to deal with loss well. There were people who became extremely close but as time went on, went back to their every day lives. There are his friends that gradually faded, no longer having the mutual bond we once shared. There are the people who handled grief horribly and I ended up ending a relationship with. There are the friends who checked in as often as they could around busy schedules. There were the people who sent “whatever you need”, some meaning it, others not. Then the distant condolence friends. There is also the people who drop everything. They show up when you need them. They move across the country or state. They help play with your kids, or clean your house. They listen to your gazillion stories because they know you need that. Those people are called the Tribe.
So my friendships fall into these three categories. Acquaintance friends-those who you see around, who care about you but aren’t personally invested in your life. Friends- they are the ones you have occasional dinner dates with, usually some history of deep friendship and bond. And The tribe- these are the people who offer to hand mop your floor because you have been on the phone handling your late husbands affairs for 10 hours straight. It was hard for me in the beginning. My whole world was changing. Everything came crashing down. All I wanted was stability and it was hard to find that even in my relationships. Not one relationship remained the same. Some grew closer, some further. Fact is- loss changes people. I didn’t know how to handle that. But like everything, I put my big girl pants on and realized life wasn’t gonna wait around for me. I could either flow with the current or drowned in the waves. The choice was mine. The last thing I could do was put extra effort into relationships. Regaining my life and happiness was of utter importance. So I deciphered, and read the true colors of every single person I knew. My friend asked me how that felt. I explained that it was hard, but I learned that you care for the acquaintances and friends but that “the Tribe are the ones you lose sleep over”. The tribe can change, but not quickly. It is the people you are intentionally investing in time and time again. They are the people you can always call at 2am when your sorrow has left you winded. They are the people who will hold you with no contingencies because there love is deep and wide. I think people need all 3 levels of friendship, but loss has shown me that the tribe is of utter importance. They are able to pick you up when not one muscle in your being remembers how to work. If you don’t have a tribe, find one. Invest in them, love them, and learn to dig deep into each others lives. I’ve never experienced something as life altering as the loss of my husband. Quite honestly, none of my relationships had ever been deeply tested. This year did just that. My tribe flew across the country or drove long distances to support me at Fareeds funeral. My tribe knew me well enough to contact my mother because I was at a loss for words. My tribe dropped everything to stay with us this year. Be that many months, a couple months, a week, or just a night. My tribe made sure we were not alone. They even stayed with me at the hospital during the birth of my son, and no this wasn’t family. They cooked for us, and helped us hang curtains. They listened to hours of memories. They came and mowed the lawn every week because that was something Fareed did. They gave me beautiful jewelry to remind me of him. They came up with the hashtag #oldshelly when they finally saw me laugh again on my birthday. They listened to my countless fears of widowhood. They come to play with my oldest because two under two is crazy as a solo parent. They understood how much was on my plate and the necessity of my mom to help me manage that. My tribe will text me memories of Fareed randomly. They help me unscramble my thoughts. They have taught me a sense of humor I’ve never had. They invite me over on Valentine’s Day. They helped me pick out a special band. The males help mentor and discipline William. They do boy things together. A bond he is missing with his precious father. They call us when they know we have big things happening. They pray without cease. They are my tribe.
Community is essential in my, and I believe every, persons life. The more deep and quality relationships I have, the more meaningful my life becomes. I’m so thankful for the people who have surrounded me this year. They are selflessly generous, loving, and kind. I pray no one ever goes through tragedy without this type of community. Wether that be large or small, it is absolutely necessary. What these people mean to the boys and I is indescribable. I promise there will be plenty of people who will let you down and hurt you in your life. Your tribe are the ones who will carry you when all else seems failing.
Be intentional with the people you love and care for. Call them, eat meals with them, send them letters, show up to their events, cry when they cry, laugh when they laugh. These deeply connected relationships will teach you the most about life. They can even reverse the worst wounds you hold in your heart. I speak from experience. These people will carry you out of the ashes.
And once you are out they will put a glass of wine in front of you and remind you of all the little things that make you laugh.
How beautiful a tribe can be.
So thankful for friends and family.
So thankful for them, and bringing back to life #oldshelly.
So thankful I have a tribe worthy of losing sleep over.