When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time.*

It’s interesting to see who shows up for you when you are in need.

When my father died there was one person in particular I expected to “get” what I needed. I had known him since I was five and after we graduated 8th grade and he moved to Montana, we exchanged weekly letters and phone calls. Through that correspondence, we became best friends. For years he was my confidante. When I’d cry about my Dad being so depressed or drunk or the pervasive sadness that hung around my house, he’d be the one I called or poured my heart out to in page after page of teen angst letters. He knew me. And so when my father passed away I just assumed he’d be there for me.

I was wrong.

He didn’t call me back. He wrote me a letter and in it he basically said that my dad was a good man and it should be a relief that his suffering was over. Or something to that effect.It’s hard to remember now the exact wording but the way I felt upon reading that letter is still fresh in my mind, sixteen years later.

It’s like that famous quote, “People may not remember exactly what you did, or what you said, but they will always remember how you made them feel.” That letter made me feel very alone. I eventually wrote him, sharing how hurt I was and after that, we stopped talking for many, many years. It felt like my heart broke twice. First I lost my dad, then I lost one of my best friends.

All I really wanted was someone to show up for me. Someone that knew me to my core and didn’t need anything from me. Because when you lose someone special to you, you’re all over the map. Mourning is like that. It’s unpredictable. One minute you are chatting away, lost in a story and the next you’re somber and sullen, retreating into your own mind. You can run through emotions like a sprinter- you’re crying then you’re laughing then you feel guilty then you’re angry and back to crying. In the span of five minutes.

It’s not every person that can handle that- that can show up and just be there. Because honestly? That’s all I wanted. Someone to call me up and say, “I’m sorry you are hurting. I love you.” and then just let me cry or scream or hold my hand silently. Just let me be but not be alone. Luckily for me, I was surrounded by people who did that and to this day, I’m still so grateful. Death scares the crap out of people. The majority of us are confused as to how to respond when someone dies and no one wants to face their own mortality. But letting our own issues get in the way of showing up for a person in pain is just not right. Not in my book.

The point of all this is to say that in the midst of grief, I am once again reminded that comfort can be found in the most unlikey of places. And in people that care enough to show up. . . but it’s not always the ones you expected to.

P.S. Thank you to each of you who wrote, called, tweeted, blogged and just all around sent me sympathy and love yesterday. It made me cry repeatedly but they were good tears- of feeling loved and cared for. You were there for me and that means so much to me.

*Maya Angelou quote though some websites wrongly attribute it to Oprah. Don’t people get by now that Oprah uses other peoples wisdom to sound enlightened?


43 thoughts on “When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time.*

  1. If I had a lot of money, I would hop on a plane and go over to your side of the US to give you a great big hug. I mean it. You are so sweet and so kind that you just don’t deserve to be sad. Plus you have a gorgeous smile.

    Since I can’t do that, I send you more hugs through the interweb my dear. Lots of them. And always remember, you are not alone.

  2. Through all the connections of internet, facebook, twitter, etc you are never alone. Lean into the energy of those who care about you and know that we will never let you fall. HUGS

  3. We deserve to not feel alone, especially during times of grief. It’s always frustrating to me when that realization doesn’t come naturally to everyone. Hugs from me to you.

  4. I felt the same way when my dog died last March and when my grandma just died this January. Basically the 15 months up until February of this year sucked and the people who got that and were there for me in whatever way – large or small – they could be, well, I’ll never forget it. And there were people who were not, and it turned out in a few of those cases that it just made the cracks in those connections show more clearly.

    I was in Vietnam when my dog died – I knew he would die while I was gone but I had to go on this stupid trip. A professor on the trip demeaned it as “not a big deal.” Some of the girls who were there – none of whom had ever had a dog – made me a card and took me into their room and let me cry in private. My roommate left her earphones on and didn’t look in my direction because she was angry that I snored the night before. Hmm…guess who I never spoke to again unless absolutely necessary? And guess who I’ll appreciate for the rest of my life?

    I’m glad you had support yesterday. I am so sorry. I know it’s the worst. Your pain is understood by many out here.

  5. You deserve to have people show up, because you are amazing and fabulous and I know you’re there for the people you love. And I’m sorry for your loss. 😦

  6. Reading this, I felt a stab of recognition go all the way to my core. Owww. (Ooo, my heart!) You know, this happened to me, too. You said it way better than I have tried to express, in times past. This was what the final blow was, in my childhood friend’s relationship that I speak of, and something that is just so destructive, we can never really come back from it. –Because, after years and years and pages upon pages, they are supposed to be someone you can TRUST, and who should KNOW YOU, yes. I understand, and I understand how even in your greif over your doggy friend Angelou you still want that feeling of being heard and loved and understood. (hugs)

    Your feelings may be all over the map as you reconcile yourself to this life-changing reality, but if it makes you feel any better, you have me. I may not say it as well as you do, but I understand. Sometimes, there is the greatest of comfort in that word.

  7. That is one of my favorite quotes. I wish I always remembered it…I could save myself some unfortunate situations! I love love love what you wrote about Oprah!

    I am still thinking about you and hoping you are coping with everything. If you need anything that I can help with, please let me know! I will be thinking good thoughts for you.

  8. It is so true that what we expect is hardly ever how things end up turning out. I’m glad that you have found comfort in many sources. It’s not a coincidence–you are such a strong, supportive person yourself and you make it so easy for people to want to support you too. Even if we don’t always know what to say, for you we want to go ahead and say it anyway. You know?

  9. When my dad passed there was one person I expected to hear from. I honestly had not spoken to them in years but we were very best friends once for a long time. She lived and still had connections in my hometown. I didn’t think we would reconnect or anything but I did expect some sort of acknowledgement that my father had passed and she was sorry.

    She never did a thing. And really? I’m a little bitter about that which I find odd for me. And you’re very right, some people run away from you and some people sort of hang around and help. Who does what is never what we expect though.

  10. It is amazing how connected and interwoven we are in each other’s lives with technology. Sometimes it can be too much but when you reach out to people (even through a blog) you get a hand to hold.


  11. So so so true. I remember reading an interview with Katie Couric after her husband died. She said that the friends she knew cared the most, kept calling even when she didn’t pick up the phone. That has stuck with me. I’m always willing to give people the benefit of the doubt, but when they don’t step up when you need them the most? I have a hard time getting over that.

    Thinking of you my friend. xoxoxo

  12. It’s nice when people surprise you. I’ve found that at the tough times in life it’s always the people you least expect who are there supporting you. Friends can so often let you down unfortunately.

  13. I had so many friends when my Grandma passed away that made it about THEM. “I AM worried about you.” “I WANT to talk to you/see you/hug you.” Then, they’d tell people what they did, “I BROUGHT Rhiannon dinner because I AM so worried about her.”

    I didn’t want that, I didn’t want dinner, I didn’t want to talk on the phone, I didn’t want anyone touching me.

    But, my friend Amy sent me a text everyday saying, “I know this sucks, I know you’re hurting, I’m here if you need me.”

    And, that is what I needed.

  14. I’ve been let down by people too, and it’s usually in the worst of times, which makes the whole ordeal even worse. But I guess at the end it doesn’t really matter where comfort comes from, as long as it does, right? Sending you hugs.

  15. I hear you, and I’m so sorry to hear that your friend wasn’t there for you when you were in need. Did you ever reconnect after the years of silence?

  16. Ever since I came up with it for my own personal use, I have been hammering on the mantra “I am loved.” It is amazing how many different situations I’m finding it can apply to and it turns into a remarkable source of comfort.
    It may not be from the source you are expecting or even from the one you hoped for (believe me, I am learning that too), but you are loved. By us, by your friends, by your family, and by Finny-fin-finn. You will never walk alone, because you are loved.

  17. More than death, I fear being alone. And not in a needy, must be in a relationship kind of way. But, the loneliness that you described. The feeling of abandonment by those who should be there for you. If I could, I’d be there to give you a hug. A hand to hold. An ear to listen. I’m glad you have this blog as an outlet and can rely on the substituted virtual support we provide. Hugs to you.

  18. Grief, on all levels, is such a tricky thing, and the way people respond to it is tricky, too. I’ve been fortunate enough to have myriad friends throughout my life who have boldly stood up for me when I needed it most, when I couldn’t stand on my own. And a few, too, that didn’t know how to be there at all, and so weren’t. It’s not an excuse, clearly, but I really do believe that if you haven’t lost you don’t know how to deal with people who have. The thing is, being there for someone who is grieving is never about having all the answers, or being able to say all the right things at all the right times. It is, however, about genuinely trying to be a good friend, always.

    One of my favorite quotes of all time:

    “For us, there is only the trying. The rest is not our business.” -T.S. Eliot

    So many hugs piling up for you. Also: really lame jokes. And we are coming to tell you them in person, hopefully in early March!

  19. I so get this. When my stepfather, who meant the world to me, died everyone seemed to need to get away from me and my grief. I kind of fell apart and the whole event reordered my universe.

    I was so sorry to hear about your pup, I’ve come back several times and have written several comments, only to decide that they didn’t convey what I wanted. I lost my dog several years ago, and what made me feel better was thinking she was hanging out with my stepfather, keeping him company.

    I’ll send a beer and a cupcake over. I hope you are doing ok.

  20. This is all breaking my heart (which I know does not help you out) but I can’t bear seeing dog’s in pain. My heart really goes out to you. Hugs.

  21. People fail us quite often. This is why the pain and loss of someone so dear to you who never failed you is so hard. I would totally be there if I could and make you hold this damn baby of mine.

  22. oh fuck sweetie, I totally missed it.

    I am sooooo sorry. We lost our Rio to cancer two years ago and it sucked to bad. I wish I could fly there right now and sit on your lap and give you a big hug!!!!


  23. Love the title. It’s so true. Sometimes I think about who is the one friend I could call, anytime of day or night, for anything. And the person I think that would be isn’t the person I hang out with most frequently. I wonder why that is.

    I’m so sorry for your loss. There is nothing like the unconditional love of a dog. *hugs*

  24. if you and i were friends IRL – i’d be there holding your hand in silence, may be crying with you.
    my thoughts are with you.

  25. All it takes is for someone to surprise you once by being there unexpectedly, and you’re pretty much guaranteed a close friend for life. I love when that happens.

    Oh, and this is clearly me jumping in and saying “I care about you and am here if you need anything!!”

  26. ack! i’m just catching up with reading tonight. i’m so sorry for your loss. i hate that last sentence but am realizing it’s the only one that works.

  27. Unfortunately, I know what you mean with this. It never ceases to amaze me how people will put their own discomfort at the thought of loss over someone that’s actually experiencing it. I’m glad that you have friends and family that are loving you and supporting you right now.

  28. I have two adult friends whose parents have died. And each time I was scared shitless and didn’t know what to do. And each time all I did was show up and listen. And hold a hand. And that seemed to be all they needed. And now I know. JUST SHOW UP.

  29. What a beautiful and honest post. I’ve been there. I’m glad you had others to help you along. It’s sad that friend wasn’t there for you when it came to something so heavy to bare.

  30. I found your blog by searching for the Maya Angelou quote. This was a touching blog post and it is amazing to see who is there for you and who is not when all the chips fall. The consolation is that the thoughtless, selfish people are usually outnumbered by those who actually care. I hope that you were able to find some solace through both of your losses.

  31. by searching maya angelou quote i found ur beautiful blog. keep on writing ;). I’ll be one of ur loyal visitor starting from now~

  32. I came to your blog a week or so ago. I was trying to find the REAL quote by Maya Angelou. The one Maya REALLY wrote..not the one by Oprah. I like Oprah…but I know that Maya wrote the real one many years ago. Anyway I know how you felt when this happened to you. I have a friend that told me many years ago..It doesn’t matter what you say..It doesn’t matter what you do..or how much you do… Just Be There For The Person In Need…meaning Be There…period! Kinda sad when GOD does open our eyes…Ever wonder Why…GOD brings certain people into your life? Why…HE opens our eyes..allows us to walk away? “When someone shows themselves to you, believe them the first time.” -…Maya Angelou

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