THE UGLY CLUB (part 2)


I am a Member of  THE UGLY CLUB.

I never wanted to be and I truly hate being so.
I have found family and friends and compassion among my fellow bereaved parents.
I have made great and what I hope will be long lasting and meaningful friendships with other parents who I understand and who understand me.  We easily talk and listen to each other as we share stories about the children we love and miss so very much.   We socialize together, go out to eat together, go for walks, and sometimes even travel together.  I have met people I probably never would have if not for my daughter’s, or their children’s, death.  I like these new friends.  I care about them.  I am glad that they are now in my life.

And I Would Trade Every  One Of Them Away,
as I know they would me,
If I Could Only Have My Child Back Alive With Me Again.


But apparently, not everyone who has read the words “The Ugly Club”  understands “the club” to which I refer.  I regret any misconception.   Let me assure all that I was NOT using the term to reference The Compassionate Friends;  nor was there any inference that Compassionate Friends are UGLY.   In fact, “THE UGLY CLUB” has nothing to do with Compassionate Friends at all!  “THE UGLY CLUB” is a term that I first read as coined by a young mom who had lost her 5 year old to cancer.  It refers to the fact that loosing our child, feels ugly and horrible…

…that losing a child is an UGLY EVENT
that we are forced into this “ugly club” against our will.
Our children have died and WE HATE IT.
It is UGLY in our hearts.

A compassionate friend wrote to me:
“Ugly is the reflection in the mirror that seems to have forgotten how to smile or to look carefree – ugly because it is the antithesis of all that I was and ache to be again but know that my scars will always be visible. Ugly is experience that robs beauty and joy from our lives.  Ugly is the sound of inconsolable tears… Ugly is the loss of a child.”

Being a member of the “THE UGLY CLUB” is different from happily joining a sewing circle, a Bible Reading Class, or a car club…the things that we WANT to be part of…the things that provide us with fun and enjoyment.  We don’t CHOSE to be in it.  We are FORCED to be Members…and the price we “pay for membership” is too dear, too horrible, too much.

 As a  bereaved mom wrote to me:
“Nobody wants to join this ugly club, there is no BEAUTY in being a member. There is love and compassion and beauty among those of us who were forced to become members against our will, but certainly not in the reason that the ugly club exists”

We are all members who did not chose to become part of  “THE UGLY CLUB”.
Our families,
Our friends,
Our lives have all become different.
And it is an ugly reality that made it so.
Many of we who relate to the term “THE UGLY CLUB”
are on the end of newer bereavement”* and  deeply feel the  ugliness of it being forced upon us.
For many of us, “THE UGLY CLUB” is a very apt description.

I absolutely agree that The Compassionate Friends is a source of comfort and compassion, and there is beauty and friendship among our meeting room walls and within the pages of our bogs and newsletters.
As it states on the National Website

“We are truly glad that you have found us but profoundly
 saddened by the reason of your visit.”

It is absolutely NOT BY CHOICE that I am a MEMBER OF THE UGLY CLUB.
I am, though, very much by choice
and by need,
a Member of The Compassionate Friends.♥

Forever RobynApril’s Mom

* We are considered NEWLY BEREAVED for the first full five years and including the sixth anniversary.



My use of the words “THE UGLY CLUB” has spurned  some emotion…and unfortunately a tiny bit of confusion for at least one reader.  It is time for me to clarify the pure intention of my words and to share some of the notes I’ve received from parents who have read them.  The first of this two part article will share the reaction of other parents,  to my use of the words THE UGLY CLUB.  Part two covers what is in my heart and why.

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Just wanted you to know that after reading the newsletters you have written, I think you have done a great job of putting feelings into words, and understanding how everyone feels things differently.   The Ugly Club is a different name, and I relate to it.   Ugly feelings make you feel so bad.  And there is nothing worse for BAD feelings than losing a child, at any age.  We all grieve in our own way, but the “ugly” feelings are so hard!  Even now sometimes when I look at Jen’s picture, the stab in the heart is renewed fiercely.  I try to have positive memories, and often I do.  But when you have watched your child slip away, sometimes it is so hard to have good thoughts.  Anyway, thank you for doing such a good job.   Lord knows I could not handle writing alot right now.   My concentration is still off!

Best to you,
Michele H,  Jen’s mom

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On July 29th, 2007, our 21 year old grandson Greg was killed, 5 days after his Dad’s birthday, that was “Ugly”.  He hit a tree, that was “Ugly”.  His body was virtually untouched, except for the head trauma, that was “Ugly”.  I will never forget the pain in my son’s voice, when he called to tell me what had happened to Greg, that was “Ugly”.  Two month’s before we were celebrating his graduation from college, and his whole world ahead of him.  That was all taken away on July 29th, how “Ugly” is that?  I am sorry if some people take  offense at the word “Ugly” but that is the way it feels. I hope in time the ugliness will go away, but I don’t know when.  Until then, don’t blame me for feeling that this whole situation was

Lucille Rothammer, Greg’s Grandma 

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I do not like the term “ugly club” when it references the Compassionate Friends.  An organization is made up of it’s members and the words ugly club have a direct reflection on the membership.  This group reached out to me when I was at my lowest after losing Russ.  The love and compassion was something  that has helped tremendously in the healing process.  To refer to the group in the way you do says that the members are ugly because they belong to this club.  That couldn’t be further from the truth.  Maybe you don’t mean it that way but I would like to see you stop using the term in regards to the TCF.  I know what you are trying to say, because I wished I never met any of the groups members.  That would mean Russ would be alive.  But  the fact of the matter is he is gone forever from this life and this group will help you and I get thru the grief…

Pete Hany,  Russ’ Dad

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THE UGLY CLUB Part Two  covers my reaction….
~Bettie-Jeanne, Forever RobynApril’s Mom
TCF East Of The River CT Chapter Leader

The Bark and The Tree ~ A Grief Journey

In April of 2010, just 16 months after my Robbie left the earth plane, I wrote THE BARK AND THE TREE for my (then) TCF Chapter newsletter.

I am at a different place, now, than I was then…

Yet sharing these words, these emotions, is no less honest, no less important.  I will be  adding a post script to the ending, 13 months after I initially wrote

 The Bark and The Tree

My first night at our The Compassionate Friends meeting, after the meeting had ended, a few of us sat, talking.  It had been only about a month since my daughter’s tragic accident and I was that combination of foggily numb, angry, cloudy and very depressed that most of you know so very well from your own journey.  In my heart I knew that my life could never be anything but what is was at that moment.

An analogy was shared with me that evening that I absorbed as much as I could absorb anything in that fogginess.  My daughter used to call me, not necessarily with great fondness, The Queen of Analogies.  I had used them, often to her annoyance,  frequently as she was growing up to illustrate points and teach lessons.  They didn’t always make sense to her, but being The Analogy Queen, I coveted any good one that I heard and make up scores of others on my own.

Over the course of the following months after that night, I found myself drawn back to the Tree and Bark Analogy when people would ask how I was doing.  “Today I only know The Bark”, I might reply, or  “There may be a vague sighting of something that could be a tree”, I might say at another time.   And then I would have to explain what I meant, having turned The Bark of the Tree into an analogy that spoke to my emotions.

In the very beginning following the death of our loved one, it is as if we are standing in a forest, but with our faces pressed up against the bark of a single tree.  It is all that we can see.  It blocks out the sun and obscures everything else. All we know, all we are, everything that exists for us is that blurred bark of the single tree.

As time passes, we might, some days, notice that there may be a butterfly lit upon that patch of bark, or a bit of life sustaining sap trickling upon the grain.  Maybe, on one particularly day, we might notice that the patch of bark is actually part of a tree.  And as some time passes, we might begin to notice that the tree has another that stands next to it; and another and another and that there is actually green grass making up their bed and blue sky welcoming their outreaching branches. On a particular day we might notice that The Bark on The Tree is actually part of a forest and that other life, other animals weave among the trees and fly among the branches.  Our ears may hear the babbling of a distant brook or the songs of the birds.  We might actually feel the warmth of sun or a cool breeze tickling our skin.  And, then, some days, again and again, all we can see is The Bark.

The Bark never goes away.  It is always part of our picture.  Some days, especially in the beginning of what is now our Lifetime Journey, The Bark is all that we can handle, all we can see, all we know exists.  Sometimes, even on that same day, we might get a glimpse of the trees or feel the sun, but then are pulled back to seeing only The Bark.  Yet the forest remains, too, even if some times it is  out of our ability to comprehend its existence.

Mostly, in the first year of the past 495 days, I’ve had my face pressed up against The Bark and was often aware of little else.  Occasionally I would surprise myself, when someone asked, to admit that there were times, when I might believe in the possibility that I could see other trees someday.  And once in a rare while, now, I do catch a blurred glimpse of The Entire Forest.  Yet some days, especially the days that Robyn’s Void screams so loudly that I can hear nothing but how deeply I miss her and grieve for the absence of our daily teasing, talking and friendship, that there exists only the fogged coarseness of The Bark.

It was more than a year after my first meeting that I discovered who had presented the analogy to the women who had shared it so kindly with me that first night.  She is Toni Wood, Barry’s mom, and had long been a Compassionate Friend to the members of This Ugly Club that we all, so deeply against our will, were forced to become part of.  I was able to talk with Toni about the origin of The Trees and she shared this with me:

“…To tell you the truth I have no clue where I got that from… but I used it because it worked for me.  I can see the tree now more clearly and the memories don’t always make me cry now ~ most of the time, but not all.  When I first thought about this analogy all I could see was the ugly knot of Barry’s death.  I could not see the good memories, the wonderful things he did and said.  I had to step back and get my nose away from the knot in the tree so I could see more of the tree ~ his life.  The roots of the tree ~ the family.  The branches ~ his son and wife and friends.  The leaves and flowers are the good and the bad things he did in his life.  Even bad things are good memories now.”

Toni Wood, Barry’s mom

What I do know now to be true, is that The Bark will never completely go away for me, though, someday, it might become ‘the bark’.  And I have found that sometimes I might be having a “Forest Moment”; like the day I officiated my son and my daughter-in-law’s outdoor Vermont winter wedding. Their vows were shared next to a gorge, a shivering waterfall and among the birds and trees.  I was in “The Forest” when all of the sudden a painful spasm of Robyn’s Absence, hurled me back toward The Bark.  I know that even at a time when I might feel the sun, that I can suddenly crash right back into The Bark of the Tree.  That is The Reality of Missing My Child.

Perhaps the irony is that, as a family, we bought 30 acres of forest that we built our family home on together.  We used to play among the trees and go “tree hunting” for games of hide and seek and scrap wood for our cozy fire circles.  Trees always used to make me smile and feel comforted.  Perhaps, some day, again, I will see them and appreciate their beauty.   For right now, I am still all too well aware of The Bark. ♥

Bettie-Jeanne Rivard-Darby, Ellington, CT
Forever RobynApril’s mom
May 2011 Post Script
To Be Posted


RobynApril Rivard-Darby