On Being Strong

Recently a group of bereaved parents were talking about how we all feel when some well meaning person tells us how “STRONG” we are.
There was alot of anger and sadness in hearing those words.

I felt that I had been strong BEFORE and that Robyn’s death had turned me into a pile of mush.
I didn’t want to move.
I couldn’t make the smallest of decisions.
Life was way too overwhelming
and I resented the fact that I was in it.
I no longer had any Passion for Life; any caring about living.
I existed because my body kept breathing and I presumed that somehow my shredded heart was still functioning.
I wasn’t living By Choice.  I was existing in a world that I HATED and FELT IMPRISONED in.
I woke up every morning Resentful And Angry, where, Once Upon A Time, I had woken up singing happy songs.

I gave up on the business that I had once loved and had with my daughter and husband.
I no longer cared about creating happy moments for anyone else, when inside my head was constantly screaming
“MY DAUGHTER IS DEAD MY DAUGHTER IS DEAD MY DAUGHTER IS DEAD!”

I WASN’T STRONG.

I was enslaved to ugliness.
Even the simple word “future” sent me in to a tailspin of sobbing.

I HATED BEING ALIVE. I RESENTED BEING ALIVE.
AND
somehow I kept taking baby steps, approaching having to be alive One Breath At A Time.
I went through the Motions Of Existing, feeling as if I Had Become A Passenger In My Life
instead of driving the way I once had.
It became my truth, both metaphorically and literally.

Even the simplest decisions felt overwhelming and insurmountable.
I HATED LIFE!

I wasn’t STRONG, in my own mind.
I was merely existing in the cruel ugliness of what seemed like the worst punishment for atrocities that I know I could not have committed to equal such pain.

Eventually, I became very accustomed to those times of torture that would take my already shredded heart and stick it in a vise, hurting it beyond all hurting it had already known.

Anything could trigger a moment of collapse that I didn’t see coming at that second…

  • The sound of the summertime birds harmonizing with each other and paying tribute to the sunshine
  • Clear blue skies of beauty
  • A line on a television show
  • The sight of a mom walking with her young child, even though mine was 28 when she was killed
  • A line in a song on the radio
  • Beautiful landscapes
  • The dog that she had given me snuggling up against me
  • Family gatherings held without her, eviscerating me in a way that felt as if I could never be put back together
  • A sound, a scent, a smell
  • One of her favorite foods.

Anything And Everything could take me back to the
Decrepitly Stark Knowing that
I had to live the rest of my life
as a mom to a child who was no longer living
and whom I love more than I love my life itself!

I “knew” that no parent had ever loved their child
as much as I love mine.
I “knew” that no parent could ever suffer
as much as I was suffering.
I envied the bereaved mom friend of mine
who had been diagnosed with broken heart syndrome,
because she had tangible proof of how
ugly and horrible it is have a child die
and to grieve for that child every single second
of every single day whether waking or asleep!

It was a cruel joke that my heart kept beating
while my child’s did not.

For 10 months, living inside of me,
she had been kept alive by my own body
and we were so entirely connected.
Entwined, literally.
How could it be possible that
she had ended in the physical sense
and I was forced to continue without her?!

STRONG?!

Impossible!

I would have defined “STRONG”  as waking up every morning ready to embrace life, when it was all I could do to pull myself out of bed and some days I just couldn’t.

“STRONG”   would have been actually feeling the emotion of fake smiles that I sometimes put on for the comfort of others,  and to survive in various situations.

“STRONG”   would have meant wanting to survive and wanting to go on and looking forward to life every day.  I did not.

None of that was my reality.
My reality was filled With Depression,
Hurt,
Sadness
And
Pain That Felt  As If I Could Never Survive.

“STRONG”  had been carrying that baby inside of me for 10 months,
throwing up multiple times every single day,
having anemia and toxemia,
gaining over 60 pounds,
while feeling more miserable than I had in my first 23 years of life,
while still embracing the pregnancy….
because my baby was living inside of me
AND all of it was going to be worth it when I got to meet her on the outside!

“STRONG” would have been finding ways to intentionally embrace Life’
to turn around The Pain
and Want to go forward.

I WAS NOT STRONG.

 

♡♡♡♡♡♡♡♡

Now 10 years, 6 months and 5 days later, I realize how incredibly strong I was, I AM and we all are.

WE SURVIVE.

Against the craziest of odds, we somehow do manage to keep putting on socks even when they aren’t matching and keep going.

 

We keep breathing through the most eviscerating of pain.

We become able to genuinely smile and laugh.

We learn how to reach out to those behind us to Offer Love, Caring, Compassion And Support.

Through our broken, shattered and shredded hearts, we somehow keep loving others; Even When We Don’t Feel Capable Of Love, It Remains.

We go to TCF meetings when we would rather stay home on the couch with a blanket over our heads.

We Learn Tools For Dealing With Our Grief And We Implement Them even when we would rather just sit on the couch with a blanket over our heads.

Maybe not every time, yet many times,
We Get Up Off The Couch And We Move And Do Things And Go Places With People Because We Know They Want Us To,
even when we’d rather be sitting on the couch with a blanket over our heads.

We Become The Keeper Of And The Tellers Of Their Stories.

We Make Sure That They Are Kept Alive For This Generation And The Ones To Follow.

We Help Others Learn, And Not Suffer The Same Mistakes Of Their Death.

I LOOK BACK NOW AND I SEE HOW TRUE THOSE WORDS ARE
AND HOW INCREDIBLY STRONG I AM.

I OWN IT NOW. 

That I didn’t “have any other choice: does not negate my strength for survival
in much the same way that I use the word “AND” instead of “BUT” to not negate what came before it.

While I once found Gratitude in Grief to be a laughable concept,
it is now become AN INGRAINED HABIT.

While stumbling across “Driveway Hearts” might have once been accidental, I now search for them wherever I go.
I look for moments of
brightness
and laughter
and sunshine
and smiles
and now when I experience them, I no longer feel guilty for feeling them without Robyn Alive,
I share them with my daughter, who may not here physically,
yet I KNOW is sharing them with me.

I have begun to accept that even without Robyn’s physical presence on Earth that there are still beautiful sunrises and sunsets; that there are still natural wonders of beauty; there are plenty of remaining reasons for laughter smiles and happiness.

I am back to a place of remembering and realizing that before Robyn was born I was a person with Life, who Lived Life, who loved and was loved; who accomplished and enjoyed my accomplishments.
Even while being a mother first and foremost to my children,
I still was a woman
and a person
and I still embraced a life that was peripheral to my children and separate from them.
If I have existed in all those other ways while Robyn was living, than I should also be able and wanting to exist in all those ways while she is enjoying her time Being Spirit!

♡♡♡♡

 Yes.  I am STRONG.

And like it or not, someday, it will be possible look back and realize that it took great strength to Get Through Each And Every Moment Of Each And Every Day and To Find A Way To Become Part Of The Future.

“STRONG”  doesn’t mean not hurting
and
“STRONG”  doesn’t mean forgetting
and
“STRONG”  doesn’t mean wishing, every single day, that Life were different
and
THAT MY CHILD WAS STILL ALIVE HAPPY HEALTHY AND WELL….

“STRONG” means living and surviving with All Of THAT.

“STRONG” means taking and applying the tools that you are learning when you can,
and
allowing yourself the grief
and the mourning
and the collapsing under the pain,
when you cannot.

STRONG” means being willing to admit, to understand, that you are in the most traumatic, tumultuous, horrible place and pain of your entire life
AND,
while it seems impossible to ever be happy once again,
you are willing to say that, maybe, possibly someday, you might again Be Happy…
AND
IT WON’T BE TODAY….

I came to realize, even in the bouts of raw enveloping pain, that I had to develop a strong ability to recognize that

“Maybe Some Day, I Might Be Able To Allow for The Possibility to Feel Joy Again Some Day,
BUT,”
I would say,
“It won’t be TODAY.”

Now, I have matured in Grief, and in My Own Self, and  I know to connect those thoughts with the word AND.
NOT BUT.
Those things are Not Opposed.
They are Real Components of The Life We Lead.
NOW I know that Accepting; Allowing For THE POSSIBILITY,
while admitting that it isn’t happening Right Now,
is Very Necessary For Growth Within Grief.

It’s perfectly appropriate to say
“I am entirely miserable
AND
maybe, someday,
I will be more than that
AND
IT WON’T BE TODAY.”

Recently, I posted about how someone had reminded me about everything that I had really accomplished since Robbie’s death.

Because I had felt consumed by the Great Nothingness,
(an Earth of which she was no longer physically part),
and because I hurt so badly that I didn’t care about living,
I think that I assumed that my life had been NOTHING for the last decade.

Thankfully, my eyes have been opened to the fact that while I felt that I was trudging through life and had given up on living,
that I was actually truly impacting the lives of those around me
I was Becoming A Survivor
rather than a Collateral Victim of my daughter’s death.

I AM INDEED STRONG!
I AM A SURVIVOR

AND
for so, so long it didn’t matter to me whether I was or not.

Now, I understand that My Strength In Grief,
My Ability to Go Forward in Life
is one of the Most Genuine
Loving
Caring
ways that I can Honor My Deceased Child
who remains
SUCH AN INTEGRAL PART
of it.

 

 

 

 

I had been sharing all this, voice to text, while walking down and up
OUR DRIVEWAY FROM HELL, 1000 feet one way, of eroded dirt, rocks, and steep elevation.

I am struggling to do at least 5 laps every day, even when I would rather sit on the couch under a blanket!  I owe it to my body to try to take care of it, even just a little.

It took me much longer to do my walk, as I recorded my thoughts, because I kept pausing every few seconds to take another photo of A Driveway Heart.

Driveway Hearts have become a constant reminder to me that GRATITUDE IN GRIEF Can Exist  and Does Exist and that I need to constantly make it a part of my every day life.

They are reminder of spirit and beauty and gifts….

They force me to keep my eyes open to possibility.

With every Driveway Heart, I discover I am forced to open up my own eyes to the life of which I am still part.

I become connected to my daughter, my mother, my father and my sister again and again and again.
I am reminded that No Matter How Cracked Broken And Misshapen These Hearts Are, That They Continue To Exist….
A Reminder Of My Own Heart.

Like other Bereaved Parents before me,

I once believed that I was
NOT STRONG
because I was
Only Putting In Time
and
I really didn’t have any choice in that matter.

Yet. the truth of the matter is, I had had several unsuccessful suicide attempts long before Robyn was born, and even following.
I do have the skills and the ability to die by suicide at any time.
AND I WON’T.
It does take INCREDIBLE STRENGTH to keep enduring the life that we are given after the death of our child.

The definition of Strong is

“able to withstand great force or pressure”.

For over ten years,
I have Survived, enduring Being A Bereaved Mom.

There Could Be No Better Definition of STRONG. ♥

 

 

 

Helping Others In The Darkest Time of Their Lives

4 June 2015
PLEASE HELP BY MAKING EVEN A TINY DONATION

robyn Purple Framebpink roses - 1rpyH-17D - printI have become a Proactive Griever.
Don’t misunderstand, I have plenty of happier moments, now,
BUT
I have not stopped missing my daughter.
I have not stopped wishing that she were still living, breathing and having earth plane life, with me….
AND
Being a Bereaved Mom STILL Sucks!

I NEVER expected to be able to go on 6 minutes, 6 days, 6 weeks, 6 months without having a living Robbie by my side.
And, now, here I am 6 years later,
not only still alive, but, every day, supporting and caring for other bereaved parents who haven’t yet
gotten to this place where THE LOVE out shadows
THE DEATH.

The Compassionate Friends
is what has helped me to become
AN INTENTIONAL SURVIVOR
of my Daughter’s Death
rather than succumb to becoming
A COLLATERAL VICTIM.
(thank you, Mitch Carmody, Kelly’s Dad,  and Alan Pedersen, Ashley’s Dad, for introducing me to that concept).

Now through TCF,
I not only strive to help myself, but to reach out to other bereaved families and support them,
in the same way that I have found compassion and understanding within our Chapter walls.

Every day, I try to be there for other bereaved family members,
to give a hand, a hug, love, caring and support.
To be there AS LONG AS IT TAKES
for the rawness of the worse pain ever known to a parent or grandparent
(and some of the worst for any sibling)
to finally be nudged out of the way by LOVE
(and finally for some, HOPE).

I do this, all,
IN HONOR OF MY DAUGHTER,  ROBYNAPRIL.

It is through the friendship, understanding, and hope provided by
The Compassionate Friends
that I am able to keep working surviving this most terrible of nightmares.
I am asking for a small tax deductible contribution to help me keep our TCF Chapter running.

I am asking for your help.
We need financial donations in order to keep our
The Compassionate Friends
East Of The River CT  Chapter
Going.
Every penny I, and other chapter members, help to raise
GOES DIRECTLY to keeping the chapter up and running to care for other bereaved families.

http://tinyurl.com/RememberRobyn2015

Every ounce of my efforts is because
I Want,
I Need
To Do GOOD WORKS
in Robbie’s Memory.

If you have ever cared about me,
or care about Robbie,
PLEASE
Don’t Let Robyn Be Forgotten!
Don’t Let The Children Of Our Chapter BE FORGOTTEN!
Collage Robyn
I can’t say it any more plainly that that.
I never expected to be without Robbie and every day it still hurts.
Every day I still wish it were different.
6 years later and  I am still struggle to accept our REALITY that Robbie will only dance next to me in spirit now.
I am in a different place than I have been, but “finding my footing” and regaining an enjoyment of living is very slow going.
Nothing in life prepared me for the Death Of My Daughter and it has dramatically changed who I used to be.

Every 29 seconds a family somewhere in the United States will experience the death of a child.
NO ONE IS IMMUNE.
I know this heartbreak all too well since my RobynApril left the earth plane December 4, 2008….the day that every thing changed for our family.

Every month The Compassionate Friends,
through its 650+ chapters and the National Organization,
provides bereavement support to tens of thousands of families like ours.
Jim and I began the East Of The River CT Chapter
so that we could reach out to help other families enduring their own nightmares.

I know that money is really tight all the way around these days.
I haven’t been able to work since Robbie’s death and every penny counts.
Jim has had, now, 5 heart attacks that prevent him from being a wage earner.  (and being 71 doesn’t really help either!)
We truly understand a really tight budget.
Your financial support doesn’t need to be huge.
Little bits can add up.
The minimum that the on-line Friends Helping Friends TCFWalkToRemember.org site accepts is $5.00
….and even that helps me feel as if you care; and that Robbie isn’t forgotten, that she still matters.

The WALK TO REMEMBER is how we raise funds for our East of the River Chapter,
allowing us to reach out and support others in need.
100% of every donation made on line makes it directly to our The Compassionate Friends East Of The River CT Chapter.

I can’t imagine how it would have been if right after Robyn’s death I had no one to turn to at all…
…no one who “got it”
and who could just be there to help me through that most awful beginning
…and still remains to help now….
TCF has become a caring family and a safe place.

By supporting us during The Walk to Remember fundraising drive,
you will be helping Our TCF East Of The River CT Chapter to raise money
to continue to meet and to expand vital programs and outreach to bereaved families in our area.
You’ll be helping us to help others
IN PAIN,
CONFUSION,
ANGER,
and HURT
who desperately need a little light brought to their darkness to survive the worst tragedy of their lives.

TCF NEVER charges for any services, but we need funds to keep going.

SPONSORING IS SIMPLE
MAKING A DONATION IS SIMPLE
JOINING OUR FUND-RAISING TEAM IS VERY MUCH WELCOMED
http://tinyurl.com/RememberRobyn2015

—just use the link and follow the prompts.
Thank you for helping me to honor the memory of my daughter, RobynApril.
Thank you for honor the memory of all of our Chapter Children.
Thank you for helping to keep them all alive in our hearts.

PS
Please consider joining our VIRTUAL WALK team.
Then, you can use the site to safely AND NON-INVASIVELY email
your family and friends,
inviting them to do a GOOD WORK
of making a tax-deductible donation, too–

And, if you are able, please JOIN OUR FREE DAY OF COMMUNITY & CARING
www.WalkToRememberCT.org

Hugs, love and Light to all,
~Bettie-Jeanne,
Forever Robbie’s mom
f tearchild hand butterfly

 

IT ISN’T CRAZY TO MOURN THE DEATH OF A CHILD

MAKENZIE MOUSE CHOWDERPOT edge
I know a young mom and dad who carry with them a stuffed Minnie Mouse, which emotionally connects them to their deceased Baby Girl.  Sometimes they take photos of themselves with their now named “Makenzie Mouse”, as if they are taking family shots with their little girl who will never get to be in a family photo.  They have been known to put a lobster bib on Miss Mouse, symbolic of bringing their Baby Girl out to dinner with them.

People, even members of their family, think that they are CRAZY.

They aren’t Crazy, they are Just Grieving.

They know that the stuffed toy isn’t their daughter.  They know, in a hard and painful reality much too harsh for those who don’t live it to understand, that their little one is now cremains in an urn sitting in the room that was intended to be her nursery.  They know that their first born will never go on a family trip, or get to be read stories to, have a baptism, or a first birthday party…

They KNOW.

When they bring their stuffed Makenzie Mouse (a nickname for their little Baby Girl) with them places, they KNOW that it is not their living breathing Baby Girl, because she never had a chance to do either.  It doesn’t matter if there will be other children to share their lives, THIS CHILD matters, IS SPECIAL, IS IMPORTANT and will ALWAYS, ALWAYS be their child. They might carry a stuffed toy, bringing comfort to them, for as long as they want to, but they ALWAYS, and will ALWAYS, carry their deceased little girl in their hearts.

Their daughter’s body ended.
They KNOW that.|
BABY MAKENZIE MOUSE edge

But their relationship with their daughter didn’t end.
Their love for their daughter didn’t end.
Their dreams for their daughter’s should-have-been future remain in every fiber of their pores.

And this is the way it is, Every Day, for bereaved parents.

The bodies of our loved children may be lying in breathless repose on silks in a casket buried under sodden earth, or cremains worn in a pendant around our necks, and the rest of the “civilian world” may view them as Dead, Gone and No Longer, but they Remain Alive in our memories, in our dreams, in our desire and in our hearts.  They are still active parts of our conscious thoughts and decisions.  We think about them every day, just as we would if their lungs still shared the same air on earth we breathe.  It isn’t just missing them on their birth dates or their death dates or every family gathering; they are in our blood, in our love, in every thought behind the thoughts, behind our smiles and our tears; they are just as much as part of us as if they lived.

We ARE, after all, their parents for as Long as We Live,
not just as long as they did.
Makenzie mouse

 

♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥

If you are the parent, sibling, grandparent, friend of a deceased loved one whom you would like to remember and honor
join us for
A BIG GIANT HUG
Connecticut 3rd Annual Statewide Walk to Remember
FREE Day of Community and Caring
Sunday July 21, 2013
Center Springs Park
Manchester, CT
check-in at 11:00
Walk begins at 12:00
FREE Cookout immediately following
Register NOW
Photo T-Shirts are available to RESERVE (ORDER) NOW
Learn More
www.WalkToRememberCT.org

Walk To Remember is a beautiful statewide tribute to the memory of children taken too soon and the strength of those they leave behind.
But it’s so much more than just a shared walk.
From the pot luck picnic to the butterfly release, music to memory boards, it’s a day to celebrate the healing power of the human spirit.