The Village Is Warm Blanket In The Cold – Not A Magic Wand

A bereaved Dad, who is a member of our local chapter, posted on his wall today, missing his son.
A very well meaning friend advised him to find a website or FB group for people who have lost a child. From the dialogue that ensued, I wondered if she thought it might help to “cure” his pain and bring him back to who he used-to-be ….

I have this “thing” about educating people about our realities of parental grief.

I offered the following post
(to which he replied, “What she said”):

“I am one of those people who is an administrator and moderator for several of the closed Facebook groups for parents who have had a child die.
I am also a founder and  leader of our local The Compassionate Friends  Chapter (world’s largest free peer-to-peer support organization for Bereaved Parents, Grandparents and Siblings)
My daughter was killed in 2008.  I have learned much about the grief of a parent since that ugly night.

All of the groups provide a safe outlet for us to put our emotions out there without having to feel the judgment of those who don’t walk our path.
They give us a safe place for us to vent and hurt and sometimes even laugh and learn from each other.

And what every single one of us longs for and what would really be the thing that helps, is to have our beloved child alive, happy, healthy and well.

We share tools of how we survive.
We let each other know that we are not crazy – we are grieving.
We share experiences and our commonality in grief.
And every single one of us just really wants our child to be alive, happy, healthy and well.

Finding our own foothold in this lifelong grief is nothing that happens in a year or 2 for even 3 or 4……
What the non-bereaved do not understand is that we are considered NEWLY BEREAVED for the first full 5 years and including the 6th anniversary.

There is nothing linear about our grief experiences or our grief pain.
We don’t start off at point A and then suddenly, slowly find that our lives become less painful or improve and then we are at point B.
It’s more like traveling on a rickety roller coaster in a dark funhouse with chainsaw wielding, ugly, sinister, psychotic clowns hidden around various turns, safety zones and popping out at us when we least want them to.

Our lives become more like walking on a tightrope over a pit of really, really hungry gators. We try to keep our balance knowing that it’s possible that any second we can easily stumble and find ourselves in pain that we don’t know how we survive. We can be proceeding steadily and then a little tiny thing throws off the balance and we are falling.
It is a constant struggle to try to bring balance to knowing that we love living people and are loved by living people AND
we ache for, long for, miss can’t stop hurting for our deceased child.

While the rest of the world gets to go on as if nothing has changed, everything in our world has changed.
We could never go back to who we were Before.
Our lives will never be as they once were.
We will never be who we were.

While the rest of the world can go on laughing, unencumbered, and feeling joy, we experience guilt for our moments of happiness, for a Very, very, very, very, very long time. We might laugh and then suddenly feel as if our heart stopped, because “how can we dare laugh or feel good, when our child is dead?!”

And then when we mature to a point where we can allow for the happy moments and happy times, there is still, always, a void present.

For a very, very long time, we understand that we don’t look for “things to get better” because the only thing that would be” better” is to have our child alive, happy, healthy and well. For a very, very long time, all we can do is look for moments of “being less horrible”.

It isn’t that we don’t love others and and isn’t that we aren’t loved by others.
It is naturally appropriate for our emotions to gravitate to our child who is no longer alive and experiencing our lives with us.

We live in pain that we never knew that it was possible to experience and still survive.

And eventually each of us comes to a point where we make a decision, whether conscious or not, to become Intentional Survivors rather than Collateral Victims of our child’s death.

We were discussing in our The Compassionate Friends in person chapter meeting one day about whether or not attending the meetings help when what all of us really know is that the only thing that “really” helps would be to have our child alive, happy, healthy and well. One of our dads said that he doesn’t know what “help” means…. what he does understand is that it’s worse not to go.

That becomes the balance of our lives for a very long time.
We don’t necessarily think in terms of “Good”.
We think of terms of “less horrible” and “less painful” because we come to understand that our lives will always have the pain of missing our loved child.

Like anything, belonging to supportive groups where others understand, Is very validating and probably is better than not.
The truth is, though, that it does not change our reality. There is no magic wand.
We will exist in the most horrible, most eviscerating pain of our lives, for as long as we do.
And Eventually, we learn how to apply tools that are appropriate for us at that moment.
Eventually, we can find ways to bring balance to existing in a world in which our deceased child is not physically present
AND
having good, strong, happy moments of life; even though they are not here.

Eventually, we can move through the feeling that our lives have ended.

The groups, and the meetings and all of the support can help us find ways to do that.

The groups help us learn that we are not alone and can expose us to some extremely valuable tools….

And the working our way through, to not hating our lives, will be the hardest, hardest, hardest part of our lives that we will ever know. 
And we CAN get there. 

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. ♥

 

 

 

31 DAYS OF HOPE – 2017

Every day, through the month of December 2017, our
The Compassionate Friends National Director, Debbie Rambis,
is hosting conversations about Hope in Grief,
through TCF 31 Days of Hope videos, on youtube.

Each video offers the perspective of a TCF member who lives this life;
who started, as many of us start, with thinking that Hope may be impossible,
or even that Hope is a word of which we may never relate…
but, slowly, each person has come to a place of Different Living.

On these videos they share the HOWs, WHYs, WAYs of Surviving Their Grief.
They share how they are becoming or have become, Intentional Survivors, instead of Collateral Victims of their Loved One’s Death.

You are invited to post your own personal message of Hope, with a photo of your loved one, on
The Wall of Hope
https://www.compassionatefriends.org/wall-of-hope/

Check Back for Updates as New Messages of Hope are Created
TCF 31 Days of Hope 2017 (pdf Table of Links)

DAY PRESENTER LOVED ONE TCF TINY URL
1 Debbie Rambis
Director of
The Compassionate Friends
Tony’s Mom https://tinyurl.com/TCF31DaysofHope2017-1
2 Mark Rambis Tony’s Dad https://tinyurl.com/TCF31DaysofHope2017-2
3 Erica McKeel Murphy’s Mom https://tinyurl.com/TCF31DaysofHope2017-3
4 Steve Parker Alyssa’s Dad https://tinyurl.com/TCF31DaysofHope2017-4
5 Marcia Alig Daniel’s Mom https://tinyurl.com/TCF31DaysofHope2017-5
6 Jordon Ferber Russel’s Brother https://tinyurl.com/TCF31DaysofHope2017-6
7 Bob and Mary Lane Amanda’s Mom and Dad https://tinyurl.com/TCF31DaysofHope2017-7
8 Theresa Iervolino Jessica’s Mom https://tinyurl.com/TCF31DaysofHope2017-8
9 Debbie Dullabaun Little Dale’s Mom https://tinyurl.com/TCF31DaysofHope2017-9
10 Donna Flynn Rich’s Mom https://tinyurl.com/TCF31DaysofHope2017-10
11 Barbara Allen Jessica’s Mom
Jim’s Mom
John Roger’s Sister
Bill’s Sister
Tom’s Sister
Amanda’s Aunt
https://tinyurl.com/TCF31DaysofHope2017-11
12 Sue Williams Bernard’s Mom https://tinyurl.com/TCF31DaysofHope2017-12
13 French Smith Steve’s Dad https://tinyurl.com/TCF31DaysofHope2017-13
14 Roy and Barbara Davies Roy and Taylor’s Mom and Dad https://tinyurl.com/TCF31DaysofHope2017-14
15 Allie Sims Big A’s Sister https://tinyurl.com/TCF31DaysofHope2017-15
16 Patrick Malone Lance’s Dad https://tinyurl.com/TCF31DaysofHope2017-16
17 Linda Wallace

 

Michael
and Benjamin’s mom
Bereaved Gram
https://tinyurl.com/TCF31DaysofHope2017-17
18 Debbie Floyd TJ’s mom
Bobby, Michaels and Carl’s sister
https://tinyurl.com/TCF31DaysofHope2017-18
19 Art Estrella Brian’s Dad https://tinyurl.com/TCF31DaysofHope2017-19
20 Spring Texas Chapter https://tinyurl.com/TCF31DaysofHope2017-20
21 Cathy Tull Sarah’s Mom https://tinyurl.com/TCF31DaysofHope2017-21
22 Nivia Vazquez Madre de José Francisco https://tinyurl.com/TCF31DaysofHope2017-22

https://tinyurl.com/TCF31DaysofHope2017-22Spanish

23 Julie Brown Korie and Kacie’s mom to angel babies https://tinyurl.com/TCF31DaysofHope2017-23
24 Heidi Horsley Scott’s sister and Matthew’s cousin. She talks about sibling grief. https://tinyurl.com/TCF31DaysofHope2017-24
25 Bart Sumner David ‘s Dad https://tinyurl.com/TCF31DaysofHope2017-25
26 Peggy Johnson Jordan’s Mom https://tinyurl.com/TCF31DaysofHope2017-Day26
27 Mark Tull Sarah’s Step-dad https://tinyurl.com/TCF31DaysofHope2017-27
28 Susan Chan https://tinyurl.com/TCF31DaysofHope2017-28