About a week later, my attempt to get on with my life continued. I was not sure what this would all entail. However, I did promise my parents I would look into joining a local grieving support group. Goodness, just the thought of it makes me want to run away. But my Dad and Mom assured me that this was something that could be beneficial to what I have been through.
To get both my mother and father off my back, I agreed to attend the local group in Lansing. It’s the only one I can find on such short notice. This isn’t something I really want to deal with, but it’s better now than later.
As I walked out to my first meeting that Wednesday evening at The Divine Mercy support group my nerves began to get the best of me. For the first time, I applied some makeup to my face. It was also very cold outside, so I decided to bring my big coat. Typical of Michigan in November, the cool temperatures do not appear to be letting up.
Before I get to the door, I heard my father calling out, “Mia, please make sure to wear a coat.”
“I got it, Dad. Don’t worry.”
“Thank you, honey, and good luck.”
“Thanks, Dad.” My mother had gone out to the store earlier. “Tell Mom I would be back at 9:30.”
“Will do Sweetheart.”
I did not want them to worry. Mainly my mother is the worrier. Then I headed out the door.
In the car, so many thoughts plagued me. For one, I think about the stages of grief I read about. There are 5 of them. According to an article on PsychCentral.com, it all begins with denial and isolation. I think this is where I have been for the most part. Upon learning of Leo’s death, I was thrown into a state of denial, and I did isolate myself from everyone. I’ve got that part covered, for sure. Next, there is anger. Well, I think I covered that too with the way I acted towards those around me.
Now, it is time to work on the other 3 stages, which I guess will also be discussed in these meetings. I think I need to get a hold of myself for now. Breathe. Hopefully, I don’t have to say anything. I am just not there yet.
Damn, I am scared. Oh, why did I agree? Hey, there is still time for me to run. I know I can just say I went and stay in my car. No! No! That is not fair. I need to do what I said. Do I really want to pretend I came to this meeting?
I was not that person. No, I needed to do this. It is important. I’m so busy debating with myself, I don’t notice I‘ve arrived at the meeting place at first. As I slide out of my car, I see so many different types of people walking over to Lansing High School. I am hesitant to engage.
Just then, I felt a tap on my back. “Good evening, Miss.”
“Hello.” I am afraid to turn around. Then, I look back and see a familiar face. “Matt?”
I am at a loss for words.
“Courtney told me you were coming.”
I was dumbfounded as to what to say.
He looked down at his feet. “I’m sorry I scared you.” Inside, I am scolding myself.
Mia, say something to him! “Matt, please forgive me.” Finally!
“No need to apologize, Mia.” He is trying to hold back his tears.
“Matt, I know.” I grab onto his arm. There is no need to speak.
At this moment, I realized Leo’s parents and I are not the only ones who suffered from the loss of Leo. Matt lost his best friend. He was the one with him when the SUV hit them. Except Leo died, and he lived. Boy, I wanted so much to ask Matt all about what happened. But I decided to wait. Courtney did tell me Matt is different since Leo’s passing. She is not sure if they will be together for much longer. I told her to be patient with him. Speaking from my own experience, I knew he needed time to heal.
“He is always moody now,” she’d said.
“Courtney, give him time.”
She agreed to take my advice for the time being.
As we walked into the meeting together, Matt and I notice there is a pretty large group.
“So, how long have you been coming?” I asked.
“About a month.”
“Is it helping you?”
He poured himself a cup of coffee. “I was taking it day by day.”
Then Matt turned to me, and I could see the tight lines forming around his mouth. “I am angry, Mia. Why did this happen? I wish I could have done something for Leo!” I lowered my gaze to the ground and shook my head. “I can’t even imagine, Matt.”
“I just wanted to feel normal again,” he confessed. I could easily relate to the feeling. “Yes, I agree.”
We heard the moderator call the meeting to order, and we take our seats. Matt sits in the back, and I sit down next to him.Matt didn’t seem to want to talk about what happened. He sat quietly and looked down at his shoes. I got the sense that he was very much still in the third stage of grief, bargaining. This is when the person grieving tries to regain control by thinking that maybe if they’d sought help sooner they would be able to change the outcome of what happened.
Wow, my heart went out to Matt. It must have been so hard to get up every day knowing the person whom you called a brother is gone, and you were with him when he died. I can’t even fathom it. I already knew how hard it has been for me, not to mention the Dancys, but I had not taken the time to think about what it has done to Matt.
As I sat there in the meeting I had a vision. I could not explain it. Suddenly, my heart was racing. I am not exactly sure where it came from, but it seemed to be a message from Leo. I was not sure what had happened. It will never be the same without Leo, but I had to make it work for me.
I listened to the different stories of loss from all the people in the room, and I become more determined than ever to take charge of my life. I’m touched by each one of them—from the mother who lost her 15-year-old son in a fire to the man who lost both his 16-year-old daughter and his wife in an accident. Each one has something to share, and it becomes increasingly difficult to listen.
I began biting my lip, and I started to think I might panic. I closed my eyes and breathed deeply. I’m grateful when Matt notices my demeanor and leads me to the back of the room. I stood there and take a few sips of water.
“You okay?” he asked.
“Yes, I am. Thanks.” I was trying to hold it together. I straightened myself up, and then I decide to listen to the rest of the stories.
I knew today was the first day, but as the meeting comes to an end I am happy I stayed. Matt stared at me before we leave the room. “You know, Mia, I am going to try harder.”
“Me too, Matt.”
Thank you, Leo.