I was standing in the shower sobbing. With the fan on and the water running, it was the only place in the house I could hide until my torrent of pain had been released.
Never before had I needed to expel so many emotional toxins from my system. And never have I needed to again. But back in May of 2015, I was walking through a breast cancer diagnosis, and I was scared.
The rest of my family was scared, too. I had already picked out my husband’s future wife. You know that creepy game you play where you tell your spouse that, if you die, they should marry so-and-so? Wait. Am I the only one who’s ever played that game?
Anyway, Saul was as terrified as I was and he did not appreciate the way I was planning my demise, even if it was for his benefit.
We both tried to be strong and confident for the kids, but there were days when the doubt creeped in and started wrapping its bony fingers around our brains.
I was having one of those days. That’s why I was standing in the shower sobbing when Saul walked into the room.
He was alarmed at first. “Baby, are you okay?”
“Go away! Just let me cry.” I know I should have been more gentle with my rejection of his concern, but I could only deal with one person at a time. At that particular moment, I was dealing with me.
I thought he would mumble a hurt or embarrassed, “OK” and walk out of the room, but that’s not what he did. Instead, he leaned in.
Fully dressed, he literally leaned into the shower and figuratively leaned into my pain.
We were both sopping wet by the time he reached over and shut off the faucet, then pulled a towel around me.
We stood there in the shower for a few minutes, him just holding me, letting me get it all out.
How often do we want to help someone, but are afraid of their reaction? We hurt for them and long to extend kindness, but we are hesitant because we don’t want to add to their burden or create an even bigger mess.
My husband’s bold foray into the shower that day sticks with me because of the valuable lesson it taught me: it’s important to step into someone else’s storm.
That person who is hurting so badly might not want to walk over to you and get too close because they are protecting you from getting wet, from feeling the full encumbrance of their grief. They seem standoffish, while in reality, they would love a friend.
We often feel like grief is contagious and we don’t want to spread it around, so we keep it to ourselves. But in my experience, what’s revealed is what’s healed. When we sit with someone, even in the silence because there are no words to say, we are bringing light and love to the battlefield.
May I remind you today, as I remind myself, that grief is not contagious. But kindness sure is.
Please continue to share your stories of kindness with me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Or send a letter to Kindness is Contagious c/o Nicole J. Phillips, The Forum, 101 5th St. N., Box 2020, Fargo, ND 58107.
Nicole J. Phillips is a former television anchor for Fox News in Fargo. She is a writer, speaker and mother of three kids. Nicole is married to Ohio University’s men’s head basketball coach Saul Phillips. You can visit Nicole at nicolejphillips.com.