People who walk through similar pain share an invisible bond. We call it being “in the club.” I’m in the “parents of children with special needs” club, the “parents of heart kids” club, and the “bereaved parents” club. No one wants to join these clubs, but I can’t tell you what a comfort it is to find others there when you crash-land into one.

girls night out

I worked for our children’s hospital for five years and volunteered there for two years before that.

One of the best parts about spending so much time at the hospital was making friends with other women like me. These moms have heard devastating news about their children from the mouths of doctors, kissed their babies goodbye outside an O.R. countless times, knowing that could be the last time they see their child alive, made job decisions based on insurance, and learned how to navigate the red-tape bureaucracy of medical insurance and Medicaid.

We know what to bring each other, and our kids, when we’re in the hospital. When we’re all in at the same time, we have hospital slumber parties (minus the drinks with umbrellas in them). It has been over a year since I left my job at the hospital, so I don’t see these women very often. We have rarely found a day we could all get together, but what I love about them is that they are low-maintenance like me.

We understand how bone-wearying-busy each one of us are, unless we’re sitting at our child’s bedside in the hospital, when we’re just bone-wearying-scared. We can go six months or more and still pick up right where we left off.

The best part is that these girls’ nights out don’t include heart monitors, i.v. pumps, hospital food, and awkward hospital furniture. Thanks to a gift card from Applebee’s, I had the chance to sit down with one of my friends this weekend.

She and I share membership in all three of the clubs I’m in. Her son passed away nearly seven years ago. I had the privilege of meeting him a few times, and she met my daughter before she died nearly four years ago (how can it be that long?). We ordered drinks and an appetizer sampler while we caught up on each other’s lives.

We talked about having “the talk” — the one about how much to do and when to stop medical care and let a child die. We discovered that we both had to cancel projects we’d scheduled to make our homes more handicap-accessible when our children died. I am not able to have conversations like this with many friends — I hate to bring it up with someone who hasn’t been there.

It was great to see her when neither of us was in crisis. We laughed with the wait staff, took our time, perused the menu so many times I’ve got it memorized (they have light fare, super-tasty sliders, steaks, and pasta — something for every appetite and every diet), and relished not having to be anywhere or do anything. It was a little like summer vacation for grownups, except much too short. We enjoyed it so much that we’re already planning our next girls’ night out, hopefully when more of us can make it.

We noticed that Applebee’s hosts a weekly girls’ night with a theme I wish I’d thought of: “Life is Better Shared.” Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest are fun, but nothing beats face-to-face. They have a number of locations in our area, so we can take turns driving across town. You can learn more about Applebee’s Girls’ Night Out on their social media channels (they’re on Twitter, Pinterest, and YouTube), where they are interacting with women like us and encouraging all of us to get offline and get together.

And thanks to Applebee’s and BlogHer, I get to give away a $150 Applebee’s gift card for you and your friends to share a little life together at Applebee’s. To be entered for a chance to win, just leave a comment with your favorite thing to do with your friends, face-to-face.

Rules:
No duplicate comments.
You may receive (2) total entries by selecting from the following entry methods:
a) Leave a comment in response to the sweepstakes prompt on this post
b) Tweet about this promotion and leave the URL to that tweet in a comment on this post
c) Blog about this promotion and leave the URL to that post in a comment on this post
d) For those with no Twitter or blog, read the official rules to learn about an alternate form of entry.
This giveaway is open to US Residents age 18 or older. Winners will be selected via random draw, and will be notified by e-mail. You have 72 hours to get back to me, otherwise a new winner will be selected.
The Official Rules are available here.
This sweepstakes runs from 7/9/12 – 8/3/12.
Be sure to visit the Applebee’s Life Is Better Shared page on BlogHer.com where you can read other bloggers’ reviews and find more chances to win!