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. 

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.
 

Walk to Remember ~ Coming Together In Strength, Love and Caring

At our last monthly The Compassionate Friends East of the River monthly meeting a newly bereaved grandfather spoke quietly, but strongly.  Living outside of theUnited States, he had blessedly made it to Connecticut in time to cradle his ailing grandson in his arms.  Baby Luke had lived only a short 5 months and all of it in the Nic-U, but he made an impact on the lives around him.  His family aches from his loss only a year ago.  As his Grandfather shared his emotions, all were filled with rapt and reverent silence.  It was his first, and perhaps only, time attending a Compassionate Friends meeting.  But he found tremendous value in attending with his wife, his daughter and her spouse.  He held up his hand, fingers spread apart.  Each finger, he expressed, represented each of us in The Compassionate Friends support group.  We each were there, he explained, separate and yet connected.  Then he made a fist and said that this was all of us together, More Powerful, More Capable and filled with Strength!

How right he is!

As bereaved parents, grandparents, siblings, most of us can find ways to slowly survive after the death of a ‘child’ in our family, whether or not we ever attend a The Compassionate Friends Meeting.  Life plugs along and goes on, whether or not we remain passive unwilling participants or we find ways to slowly come back to wanting to live a fulfilling life again.  But together, through our relationships built through The Compassionate Friends, we learn not only that we are not alone, but that we are not crazy in our emotions and experiences following the death of someone who was part of us.  Alongside the others in our new Compassionate Friends Family, we find strength….strength to go on in the darkest and most horrible time in our lives…strength to allow the tears to flow, the laughter to return, the memories to be shared.

One can survive the death of their child or sibling without ever attending the peer-to-peer support group, but to sit along side of others who “get it”, who we don’t have to mask with, who understand our deepest, most scary emotions, without us barely having to say a word, is like The Fist.  We become connected to others, and through that connection comes a vital strength and possibilities of “MORE”…We learn, together, albeit very slowly, that there Can Be More; even though for the first few years following the death of our child or sibling, most of us might wonder how life will ever be More again, or even why we would want More.  We are all so singularly fractured after the death that rebuilding a life seems not only daunting, but, often unwanted.  But with the others next to us, supporting us, caring for us, experiencing with us, we begin to regain that strength….like the fist held up by Luke’s grandfather.  The journey is never good, never easy, never pleasurable, but alongside of our Compassionate Friends Family, it is less horrible then if we were alone.

Every year at the Annual Walk to Remember, bereaved parents, grandparents, siblings, family, friends, as well as community leaders and supportive others come together like the fingers of that first.  This year The East Of the River CT Chapter of The Compassionate Friends will be hosting the 2nd Annual Statewide Walk to Remember on Sunday July 15.  The Walk is held concurrently in the same month as the National Walk to Remember ®, this year held inCosta Mesa,CA.  Patterned after the National Walk, which was created by THE COMPASSIONATE FRIENDS in 2002, as a symbolic way to show the love that bereaved families carry for the children they mourn, our local walk provides a Day of Community and Caring ~ a day of Remembrance ~ A Safe, Compassionate Gathering where we can shout out the names of our deceased loved ones, tell their stories and hold them not only in our own hearts, but share them with others.  The Connecticut Walk isn’t just about THE WALK.  After the gentle 1.5 mile stroll through Center Springs Park and a few blocks of both business and residential streets of Manchester, our East Of The River CT chapter provides FREE burgers and hotdogs; families contribute to pot luck, there are Memory Boards to share photos and stories of loved ones, time to sit and talk, sharing memories not only of their deaths, but of their Lives.  Peaceful, yet inspiring music adds a comforting backdrop.  The afternoon ends about 3:00 with a brief Remembrance Ceremony and the release of butterflies.

Both The Walk to Remember and our regular The Compassionate Friends Monthly Meetings reaffirm that WE NEED NOT WALK ALONE as bereaved families.  Like the fingers that come together to make the fist, as Luke’s grandfather reminded us, we derive a strength from being Together.

THE 2nd ANNUAL
STATEWALK WALK TO REMEMBER

FREE COMMUNITY EVENT
As hosted by
The Compassionate Friends East Of The River CT Chapter
July 15, 2012 Rain or Shine
(butterfly release will be postponed is case of inclement weather)
CenterSpringsPark –Manchester,Connecticut
Pre-registration requested at TCFEastOfTheRiverCT.org
Check in and on-site late registration  10:00 am    Walk 11:00 am
Cookout begins about 12:30
Remembrance Ceremony and Butterfly Release about 2:00 / 2:30
Park reserved for fishing, conversation and more until 4:00
Personalized Walk To Remember T Shirts available by pre-order only

Donations will be accepted Day of the Walk
and can also be made on line through our Team
HOLDING HANDS HUGGING HEARTS
On the safe
FRIENDS HELPING FRIENDS® On-Line Virtual Fund–Raising Walk Site

EVERYONE is invited!

♥    Bereaved Families, their friends and support
♥    Community Leaders
♥  Social, Medical, Religious Personnel
♥ Any one who would like to attend the National WALK TO REMEMBER® but won’t be able to make it to Costa Mesa this year
♥ All Ten Connecticut TCF Chapters – Their Leaders, Members, Family and Friends
♥  TCF Chapters in all surrounding states
♥  Anyone who has ever lost a loved one

Pre-registration is requested