May 17

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One of my first thoughts after Benny had passed was his birthday.  Ohhhh, his birthday.  How would we get through that day?  Just the thought would throw me into hysterics.  My child should be getting older, not feeling further away.

I told Parker that I wanted to do another memorial on his birthday.  Why not, I figured, the day is going to suck anyway.  We figured we would bury him on his birthday.  When I really sat down and talked it through though, that wasn’t a possibility.  I mean, how could we explain to Darcy that Benny was in a tiny box?  She was having a hard enough time with the whole soul/body concept anyway.  This service was supposed to be for the kids and the last thing I wanted to do was further confuse them.  That’s why we buried him, just me and Parker on May 8th.

So I sat down with Sandy, Tara and Parker and we talked it through.  Suddenly, what we were picturing as ‘awful’ became ‘hopeful’.  That probably sounds wrong, but here’s the thing, when someone dies suddenly, you rarely have the time to think about how you want them to be remembered.  You’re knee deep in pain and just want to get through the service.  You don’t really get the chance to say what you might want/need to because you’re so in shock.

I remember Benny’s first Memorial service, it was beautiful and Pastor Aaron did a great job.  I just about sobbed through the whole thing because it all seemed so surreal.  I hadn’t truly wrapped my head around any of it and honestly, it just hurt too damn bad.  It hurt to breathe, it hurt to be alive without him.  It hurt to think and it hurt to remember him.  It was a celebration of life, but so bitter to me, still so unfair.

We showed up on May 17 to a gathering of family and friends.  Some of these people have always stood by us and some we have become closer with through this tragedy.  No matter how we are connected to these folks, the love that was shown at that cemetery was amazing.

My friend Chris brought a train table for the kids ‘to play with Benny,’ and set it up close to his grave.  He then began to speak about Benny.  He said that he didn’t know Benny to be much of a crier, but rather he was always happy, always smiling.  He said that today was a tough day and cry if you have to, but leave with a smile in your heart, because that’s what Benny would have wanted.  We had to wait as 50+ motorcycles lead a procession out of the cemetery in the midst of Chris’ speech.  I smiled, as Benny would have loved it.

We shared our favorite Benny memories (more on that later) and most were funny.  When Sandy began to speak my heart ached for all that she lost with us that day.  It was such a beautiful tribute to such a beautiful soul.  Tara read ‘The Invisible String’ and the kids sat amongst the babies graves in the Garden of the Angels and in that moment there was such peace.  It reminded me of the day that Benny was born and we were bombarded with most of these children at the hospital.  My neighbors 2 year old daughter sat and stroked Darcy’s hair so lovingly during the story.  It was as if Benny were there trying to soothe her.

We came back to the house and walked the loop around Bjorklund in our Benny’s Bunch shirts.  We picked up a few new folks and there had to be at least 100 if not more people involved.  We walked across the street to the church where the kids all got balloons and sharpies and wrote messages to Bennett.  We sang Happy Birthday before we let the balloons go.  It was a very tough moment, singing to my son even though he wasn’t there, realizing that he would never grow older, but forever be just shy of 18 months.  It tore us apart, but we got through and watched as the balloon floated up and away, over Worcester, up to Benny.

I have to write this down because I don’t ever want to forget.  This day, that was supposed to be so terrible turned into something so beautiful. We are so blessed to have amazing, caring people in our lives.  It was filled with love and I was able to remember that even though his life was fleeting, I got to have him, he was mine.  I love you so much Benny Bear and will forever miss you!

 

Words

I feel like I should write, but I don’t know what to say.  Benny should have been 2 on Saturday.  We should have been opening presents and blowing out candles.  Instead we visited his grave and sent messages on balloons to heaven.  Saturday was surprisingly ok because we took the high road, we celebrated his life, however short it was.  I felt lucky that he was mine, even though it was only for 17 months.

I don’t know how long I will last on the high road before I fall off and start to resent the Universe again.  How long until I will feel bitterly angry and sad at all that has happened.  For now, I’m going to enjoy this break from the pain, however brief and be happy that he lived, be happy that I was able to love him, and be happy that he was mine.

The ‘List’ of how to treat bereaved parents

DO allow them to express as much grief as they are able and are willing to share with you. DO allow them to express as much unhappiness as they are feeling and willing to share with you.

DO allow them to talk about their loss as much and as often as they want to.

DO be available to listen, to run errands, to help with the other children, or whatever else seems needed at the time.

DO treat the parents equally.  Fathers need as much support as mothers.

DO accept their moods whatever they may be, you are not there to judge.  Be sensitive to shifting moods.

DO encourage them to be patient with themselves and not to expect too much of themselves.

DO encourage them to not impose any “shoulds” or “I should be” on themselves.

DO give special attention to the surviving siblings in the months to come (they are often in need of attention which their parents may not be able to give).

DO offer to take surviving siblings to school, birthday parties, and extra-curricular programs.

DO let your genuine concern and caring show.

DO offer to be a friend.

DO recognize that grieving has no time limit and varies from individual to individual both in the way they express their grief and the time required to stabilize.

DO talk about your memories of the child and the special qualities that made the child endearing.

DO acknowledge the loss through visits, phone calls, sympathy cards, and donations to a charity meaningful to the family.

DO appreciate that your bereaved relative or friend doesn’t always return phone calls right away.

DO remember that when you phone, even if it is to only leave a message, the bereaved feel comforted by your efforts.

DO extend invitations to the family.  But understand if they decline or change their minds at the last minute. 

DO tell the bereaved family how much you care.

DO remember it is usually the simple little things you say or do that mean so much.

DO continue to support bereaved parents well beyond the acute mourning period, even if it means years.

DO be sensitive that being in the presence of other children of similar age to the child they lost may make the bereaved parent uncomfortable.

DO give the bereaved time to resume the activities they participated in before their loss.

DO learn how to give good hugs. The bereaved need every heartfelt hug they can get.

DO expect your relationship with the bereaved to change. When you are bereaved, every relationship is affected in one way or another.

DO talk to your children about the loss.

 

DON’T avoid mentioning their loss or the child’s name out of fear of reminding them of their pain (they haven’t forgotten it!). DON’T change the subject when they mention their child.

DON’T tell the bereaved parents what they should feel or do.

DON’T have expectations for what bereaved parents should or should not be doing at different times in their grief.

DON’T avoid the bereaved parents because you are uncomfortable (being avoided by friends adds pain to an already painful experience.)

DON’T make any comments which in any way suggest that their loss was their fault.

DON’T say “you can always have another child.”

DON’T point out that at least they have their other children (children are not interchangeable; they can not replace each other).

DON’T say “Your loved one is waiting for you over there,” “God wanted him,” “It was God’s will,” or “God knows best.”

DON’T say “you should be coping or feeling better by now” or anything else which may seem judgmental about their progress in grieving.

DON’T say that you know how they feel (unless you’ve experienced their loss yourself you probably don’t know how they feel).

DON’T tell them not to cry. It hurts us to see them cry and makes us sad. But, by telling them not to cry, we are trying to take their grief away.

DON’T try to find something positive (e.g. a moral lesson, closer family ties, etc.) about the loss.

DON’T say, “If you need anything call me” because the bereaved don’t always know how to call and ask for your support.

DON’T force bereaved people to talk about their loss. They will engage you when the time is right.

DON’T expect grieving parents to be strong and don’t compliment them if they seem to be strong.

DON’T assume that when a grieving parent is laughing, they are over anything or grieving any less.

DON’T wait until you know the perfect thing to say. Just say whatever is in your heart or say nothing at all. Sometimes just being there is comfort enough.

 

May

When they first told me my due date with Benny, I was terrified that he would be born on the day that my mom died those 15 years earlier.  His due date was May 18th and my mom died on May 25th.  It just all seemed so wrong.

As luck would have it, he was born on May 17, exactly 1 day before his due date, just like his sister.  The question is, how do I navigate May now?  With all of these awful reminders about the people that I love that are gone?  Over the last few years I have finally made it through May in ok spirits, what the hell do I do now?  I feel as if I’m navigating through a minefield.

As luck would have it too, several family and friends celebrate birthdays in May.  What do I have left to celebrate?  Everything that has been taken from me?

'How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard.'