Bereaved Parents Join Together

 

BEREAVED PARENT, SIBLINGS, GRANDPARENTS, FAMILY AND FRIENDS
are all invited to join us on

THE THIRD ANNUAL STATEWIDE WALK TO REMEMBER ~
DAY OF COMMUNITY AND CARING

Sunday July 21
Center Springs Park
Manchester, CT
pre-registration requested

WHERE EVERY DECEASED CHILD IS REMEMBERED AND HONORED

Highlights from our
First CT STATEWIDE WALK TO REMEMBER -2011

A Changed Life After First National The Compassionate Friends Conference

I am taking a look back with this reprinted article, circa July 2010,  remembering why I keep going to the National TCF Conferences, and how this First One, and the friends and relationships I made there,  helped to save my life….

July 2010
My First National Compassionate Friends Conference

This was a really different month for Jim and I.

July began with our attendance at our first (but certainly not our last!) The Compassionate Friends National Conference in Arlington, VA.  In the nineteen months since Robbie left the earth plane, this was the singular most important thing that we have done for ourselves and for the memory of our beloved daughter.

Our first night there we attended a sharing session, attended by Facebook Friends.  By the time we left the session we had not only put names to faces, heard stories that touched our hearts, but made many, many new friends.  Most of those in the session were first time conference attendees, noted by the butterflies on our badges.  Any time someone further on in their bereavement noticed a butterfly badge, a hug and gentle words of compassion were offered.  There were many hugs shared that evening  (and many,. many more throughout the entire conference).  And even though this was only the first session of the conference, we realized 15 minutes into it that we would be back for next year’s event.  I knew it as soon as one of the Dads shared one of the reasons why he, his wife, and remaining children attend the conference every year.  He said that it was the closest he could ever come again to taking a vacation with his child…that this was a place where his son was with them all the time; that they not only could talk about him, but others wanted to hear about him, others wanted to share his life; it was where he could always be present and was part of everything they did over the weekend….LIKE BEING ON VACATION WITH HIS CHILD.  Jim and I squeezed hands and shared a wistful look.  We knew that we wanted this for us.  We look forward to next year’s National Conference as “Our Time With Robyn”.

I shed a Good Amount of tears at the conference.  Certain words spoken in workshops triggered memories and emotions….Talking about Robyn and sharing her life ~ and her death ~ is still very tender.  Sometimes I found myself feeling very much at peace, and then it would hit me why I was there.  Triggered by the workshop format, I would fall back into my memories of all of the dance events and workshops that Robbie and I had gone away for together and it would suddenly strike me that it would never be again.  And then I would remember what the dad had said that first night about how this was the place that their child could always be with them.

I talked about Robbie a lot, especially to several of the presenters with whom I bonded….and something began to happen differently….I began to see MORE TREES and much less bark…and the bark that I saw wasn’t as much Bark.  (see April 2010 issue The Bark And The Trees).  I was surrounded by 1,500 other people who understood my pain, my grief, my aching to have my child back ~ and that, in itself, was profoundly comforting.

At times it was beyond my comprehension as I looked around at so many, many families affected by the loss of their child, their grandchild or their sibling.  The amount of names carried during THE WALK TO REMEMBER was overwhelming, as were the amount of people, nearly all wearing the logo-ed white and red tee shirts, many adorned with photos of their beloved child gone too soon.  And though the walk was a time of reverence, it was not, like the entire conference had been before it, a time of depression.  There were smiles and stories and laughter.  Some skipped off track for a “quickie” at STARBUCKS or COLD STONE CREAMERY.  I kept taking photo after photo, daunted by the site of so, so many people who had lost children, yet knew statistically that we represented only a very tiny portion of bereaved families.

One of the strangest moments during The Conference was when Jim and I were telling another parent that it had been 18 months since Robyn’s leaving of the earth plane…and then I suddenly realized that it actually was 19 months on July 4, the final day of The Conference.  When had I stopped being aware of how many days it was?  Was that Good?  Was it Forgetting Robyn?  Was it Healthier?  I finally decided that I didn’t need to define it.  It JUST IS.  By the end of July I was very well aware that it was 19 months, 3 weeks and 6 days, but not without some aid of the calendar.

Leaving the Conference was very, very hard.  For 5 days we had been surrounded with Compassionate, Understanding New Friends, where hugs and warmth flowed freely; where we didn’t have to explain to others how “hard it is”; where it was OK to cry, to grieve, to hurt, to be angry, to be sad….and TO HOPE.

One of the most surprising moments of The Conference, for me, was when one of the speakers noted that years now after the death of her sister and her two children that she was actually in a better, happier, healthier place then she was before those tragedies.  Instead of being sentenced to a dismal existence of horrible grief for the rest of her life, her journey had taken her to a place of intense self growth and she had ended up a more alive, happier person that she ever had been.  It was an intensely brave thing to admit.   HOPE was the constant theme throughout the weekend.

Leaving the safety of that warm cocoon and heading back to Reality and to THE CIVILIAN WORLD was not an easy thing for many of us.  To go from a Place of Understanding back to The Land Where People don’t “Know” and can’t relate, nor do they want to, is very, very hard.

Luckily, Jim and I had two sets of different friends in Virginia who we spent the next 10 days with.  Neither set “understood”.  One never had children and the other has three healthy little ones.  But both sets of friends love us and cared about us and gave us safe place to begin to “de-grief”.    (I’ve already been approached about possibly leading a session at next year’s conference  on “De-griefing, Decompressing, and Entering Back into the Civilian World”)

I “fell apart”, sobbing, several times at their homes and one night just sat at the computer, typing

“SCREAM SCREAM SCREAM SCREAM SCREAM”

into my Facebook Status line because the pain of missing Robyn was so great.  Other times, especially at the friend’s home who had “grown up” with Robbie during their teenaged years together, I shared Robyn stories, laughter with gentle, happy, fond memories.  There is an ebb and a flow as I begin to move into the New Normal, which can’t be avoided.  It Just Is.

It’s been a really different month.

I found myself helping and comforting a lot of people this month.  The badges at the Conference made it easy for us to reach out to “first timers”, too, and whenever Jim and I saw someone alone, we would extend a hand of friendship and comfort and invite them to join us.  We met some really amazing people and have begun new relationships that I expect to last far, far, far into our future.  (That’s another difference this month…I am recognizing that there IS FUTURE…)

Sometimes I gave more to others than I needed myself.  Other times I turned to others, heavily,  for strength and understanding. Parts of me that I thought were going to be buried forever, if not long gone, are slowly resurfacing.  And yet, I still find time where I just can’t function; where missing her is overwhelming….Sometimes, it is more ache, and less feeling totally fractured.  I can honestly say that I think, besides the passing of days and the baby steps that I have been forced to take, The Conference has made a very big difference in where I am in my journey….and The Music was part of that…something very different this month.

Something clicked differently in me as I listened to one of Alan Pedersen’s songs….  It was the song DADDY SMILE, written by Alan, through the eyes of his beloved and very greatly missed daughter, Ashley.  As I listened to him sing, I was certain that Robbie had reached into his heart, using his voice, his words to send me this message….

 “ I sat here in my easy chair 
the other night
like so many times before
staring at her picture
Feeling sorry for myself again
thinking about how hard life’s been
And how much I miss her
All of the sudden
it was almost like a dream
She stepped out of that picture frame
and sat right next to me
She said “ [Mom], I think it’s time
we had a little conversation ~
~  a heart to heart ~
~  just a you and me ~
[Mommie], every day I look at you
And what do I see?
You’re crying
when you’re looking back at me.
That was O.K. for a while,
but you know, [Mommie],
I miss your smile. “    

 I am beginning to realize that it has been a really different month, because I am becoming a very different me.

I can’t thank The National Compassionate Friends Conference enough for bringing new important people and relationships into my life and for bringing other emotions, besides pain, back into my life.  ♥

¯ Words and Music by Alan Pedersen
Copyright Ever Ashley Music
Reprinted with permission

DADDY SMILE words and music by Alan Pedersen – used with permission

Alan and Bettie-Jeanne

 

Why I Allow Myself To Be Sad and Feel Pain After My Daughter’s Death

I was singing the song, YESTERDAY, by the Beatles the other day.
Feeling it.

 “Yesterday, all my troubles seemed so far away
Now it looks as though they’re here to stay
Oh, I believe in yesterday.
Suddenly, I’m not half the man I used to be,
There’s a shadow hanging over me.
Oh, yesterday came suddenly…
Why she had to go I don’t know
She wouldn’t stay…
I said something wrong
Now I long for yesterday…”

and I posted it on Facebook, commenting,

“Yep. Yesterday.  (not literally yesterday, but about 53 months ago)”

 A newly bereaved mom
(two months “out”  or “old” as Mitch Carmody and Alan Pedersen, bereaved dads and grief specialists, phrase it – our new age)
responded on Facebook , saying

Ugh….53 months sounds like forever when I’m not even on 3. I don’t want to be 53 months and still so sad…”

Sadness.
Grief.
Complex.

It provided me the opportunity to look at my own emotions,
at my own Sadness…

I truly believe that
If you don’t Want to Be Sad, then  you won’t be.

I believe that You will be what you allow and what you choose.
You CAN fight off The Sadness.
You CAN choose
” I can’t help how I feel, but I CAN help how I think and act”.

You CAN push through The Pain and make a deliberate choice to Think and Act “Happy” and then, eventually, you will be so.

But I have not done that This Time.

This time I am allowing my emotions.

This time, for now, I am being true to my feelings
(most, not all, of the time -There ARE times that I mask for reasons of the moment.  But I REFUSE to pretend that my heart hasn’t been shredded just to make the “civilians” around me more comfortable).

Once upon A Time…I used to be a motivational speaker, by profession.
I used to teach people how to apply the concept of
“I can’t help how I feel but I CAN help how I think and act”
to nearly every crappy situation in their lives,
and, then discover when continually doing so,
that such a little thing can positively impact their lives.

I took a course when I was 17 called ADVENTURES IN ATTITUDES (google it) –
it was LIFE CHANGING!!!!
And that was when I was first introduced to
“I Can’t help how I FEEL,
(feelings exist- we don’t ask for them- we don’t look for them- we don’t go shopping for them- they JUST ARE….)
BUT I Can Help how I Think and Act….”
(I can change my circumstances by thinking and acting differently than how I feel.  
I can not react to challenging emotions  I can think positive, uplifting thoughts through challenges.  I can smile and Act like it is the brightest day of my life, even if I feel sad or have difficulties.  And, eventually, how I feel may come around to how I am acting.  If I believe and will myself to be a Happy, Contented Person, I can become a Happy, contented Person.)
It is, in essence, the Power of Positive Thinking.  And it WORKS.

I applied that very little, but POWERFUL, concept to dealing with my years of sexual abuse,  through a bad and abusive first marriage, through bankruptcy, through my physical and psychological care giving to, and followed by the deaths of  Jim’s parents, his aunt and uncle, my parents, and  two best friends; through Jim’s five heart attacks.  I applied it through the difficult and debilitating terminal illnesses of my parents who I was taking care of….and used it to survive grief after their deaths.

I applied it to every negative facet of my life and turned my attitude ,
and often,difficult  circumstances around.

I was one of The Most Lighthearted, Upbeat-In-The-Face-Of-Challenges, Happy Inside, Peace-Owning people I Knew…Because I had decided that I WANTED TO BE and so I was going to Be.

Robyn frequently, and lovingly, but with a hint of annoyance in her smile,
enjoyed calling me “The Perky B**** “!

So I know because I lived it,
and because I was a really good life coach for others who applied it and lived it  and it worked for them, too,
that
 ” I can’t help how I feel but I CAN help how I think and act”
can be Positive Life Changing.

I don’t know that anyone can truly understand this next part, unless, maybe, they have walked a mile in my shoes….
Unless maybe they had a child who grew into their best friend, their pal,  their business partner and then, violently and suddenly had her life ripped from their own….

For right now, until when and if OTHERWISE comes,

I AM JUST ALLOWING THE EXPERIENCE OF ROBYN’s DEATH.

I am NOT going to fight it

I am NOT going to try to talk myself out of the emotions

I am NOT going to take “a negative” and reshape it into the positive that will never be.

I am NOT going to try to climb over it.

I’m not going to bury under it.

I’m not going to go around it.

THIS TIME, for this most horrible of Life Experiences,
I am going to Walk Through The Pain.

It’s really hard to explain.

But THIS TIME I feel that both Robyn and I really deserve
(not as”punishment” but as Truth)
for me “TO ALLOW” to be fully immersed in The Experience,
the Ugly Reality of her death
and not try to take a short cut.

We live in a cut and paste world.
For most of our lives we’ve had a rewind button and the fast forward button.
We don’t like what we see? We skip ahead.
We need a “do over”?  We rewind to have the experience again,
or we cut and paste something new in.
Then came the delete key.
How EASY to get rid of something that we don’t like clogging up our lives.
Heck, we can even UNFRIEND people with the simple click of a button
and erase them from our lives as if they never existed.
This technological world has impacted how we emotionally  deal with things;
how we think of things,
and how we are SO ABLE to avoid things.

For a good chunk of my adult life,
I have had  word processors and computers that have allowed me to take “it”,
move “it”
and if I don’t like”it”,
then I can easily get rid of it,
delete it into a garbage can,
shred it,
make it just “go away” as if it were never there….
or, with new technology, I can now morph it into something else…..
(morphing is so cool!)

Every thing for past 30 plus years has been about short cuts
and changes
and morphing negatives into positives.

I’m NOT taking a shortcut with Robyn’s death.
I am allowing the Truth of The Emotions.
And THIS SUCKS more than Anything SUCKS.
This is more painful than ANYTHING that I ever thought could be lived through.

I am a The Compassionate Freinds Leader.
I facilitate several bereavement groups.
All of time I see people who try to Fight Grief
They are ‘afraid of it’…
they don’t like the way that  it makes them feel…
they don’t like being sad….
they don’t like Tears, Crying, Sadness…
…being BEREFT…
…Screaming into the pillow at night until they are too hoarse to speak.
They don’t like the feeling of Not Being In Control…
they hate weeping…
emotions all over the place…
or suddenly getting hit with a wave of grief that hurts so badly it feels as if ever feeling differently is impossible

…and we do live in a “Get Over It”  World….that lacks empathy and understanding for deep grief…
We live in a short cut
medicate
“deal with it”
“you can’t change it, so just move on”
Kind Of World…
and so they, who Try To Fight Grief, work to push it away;
they try to hide from it and try to keep busy so they won’t feel sad…..

THIS TIME, I am allowing Sad.

Maybe keeping busy to not feel pain is a way that some people can deal with their grief
(and other “bad” or challenging situations in their lives and I am not judging their need to deal with their situation in their own way)
But I know that, for me,
running away from it and trying to take a short cut,
isn’t a positive.

I need to Walk Through This Fire.

Not around it,
not fly above it,
not burrow under it.

I need to Walk Through the Pain.

I need to be True to This Ugly Experience.
I need to allow Robyn’s Death to take coal and create a diamond on the other side of the flames.

I feel that my daughter deserves better than a shortcut
 and, in my own respect for myself, so do I.

Now, that is Not  to say that at 53 months “out” or “old” in my new bereavement age,that I never feel happy.
I do genuinely laugh again.
I have experienced plenty of moments of Happiness since Robyn’s death,
and they are becoming more and more so.

Just this month after our regular TCF meeting,
a few of us went to  eat after the meeting.
We sat in the diner until 12:30 in the morning, chatting, laughing, liking being together!
Oh!  Did we ever laugh!
Three bereaved moms and two bereaved dads,
and we  were laughing so hard,
and being so silly
that we even remarked that no one would suspect that we are bereaved parents!
And it was Real!
We weren’t masking.
We weren’t Faking.
We, who all miss our children, were having fun….

….and back when I was sitting where my newly bereaved new friend is  now,
I never would have believed that fun would ever be possible again…..
and now I know that it is……
(still working on FUN, but fun, and even Fun, is OK for now
Enjoyment, now….THAT is something else, indeed)

I speak and teach a lot about
The Secondary Losses of Grief
to help people understand that there is something that is to “be expected” about all of this
(that is me, refusing to use the word “NORMAL”
~whatever can be “Normal” about my daughter dying before me?!
~whatever can be “normal” about my first born being crushed to death!?
So I phrase it that
Certain things in grief ~ Certain things in being a Bereaved Parent Can “Be Expected”…)

…. and I also know,
because
I am living THROUGH IT
that those Secondary Losses of Grief DO change again.

I am beginning to live in color again

And as it’s happening,
it is happening with a Natural Progression.
I didn’t short cut it.
I’m leaving it in the manner that is right for me.
I still have plenty of sadness and plenty of pain.
….and it can pop up without obvious triggers that I  understand….
but I am NOT Sad all of the time.

More and more and more each day,
I’m able to find ways to laugh about Robyn,
to smile about Robyn,
and to remember and celebrate her life,
rather than to just mourn her death.

I am becoming an Intentional Survivor of My Life
instead of a Collateral Victim of Her Death.

But without Shortcuts.
Without cut and paste.
By Living Through The Pain.
And I allow for the fact
that I may become,
(in fact, Expect To Become)
a happy and lighthearted person again someday;
just not today.  ♥