Tag Archives: Compassionate Friends

The ‘Club’

HK quote2

I’m a member of the club that no parent wants to be a part of.  I have a tattoo of hurt branded on my heart.  I have experienced a loss that no one can understand, unless they have lived it.

This club unfortunately has several members, too many.  So many of them have become a part of our lives.  They have reached out to us and showed us more kindness and love, and they were mere strangers 10 months before.  Thank you all for welcoming us with open arms.  Thank you for standing by us when others could not.  Thank you for always being there.  

During the worst time in our lives, we’re lucky.  Lucky to have these amazing people to stand beside us.  I wish that none of us had to be in the club.  I wish that we didn’t have to meet each other this way.  I wish a lot of things.

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7 Months ‘AA’

How has another whole month crept by?  Is it possible that we are into the second half of the year surrounding Benny’s death?  I’m not quite sure how this happened.

We’ve been attending The Compassionate Friends meetings in Westminster going on our 3rd time now.  The first time was so hard, I was so tensed up and stressed out about going that I ended up with a massive migraine for days afterwards.  It gets easier once you get to know everyone and their stories.  Parker and I actually talked this past week and it felt good to actually chime in a bit.  It’s hard being amongst the youngest there.  Most other folks children are older, they had more time with them.  One of the mother’s actually said she felt sorry for us and another couple because we had such a small window with our boys.

When my mom died, it wasn’t like this.  It hurt, believe me, it hurt like hell, but it didn’t knock me on my ass.  It didn’t make it painful to breathe some days.  I was back in school a week later, studying for finals.  Maybe it was because I was younger.  Maybe it was because I needed to get out of my house.  Maybe it was because I watched her suffer and it was time.  Maybe.

I’m functioning.  I get up, most days after 10 because I just can’t sleep at night no matter how tired I am.  I usually wake up to do Darcy’s hair, then fall back asleep.  Parker gets her on the bus probably 4 days out of 5 a week.  I’m hoping to get out of this habit this summer when she’s in camp.  She’ll only be there for 4 weeks and it’s half days.

I have days when I want to conquer the world, pay my bills, deal with insurance, etc.   I get so frustrated because it feels like there’s so much to do and so little time.  Then the idea of that knocks me on my ass again.  Reminds me to not get overbooked, overwhelmed.  So I end up taking a day or two to breathe, then I stress because nothing has gotten done.  This whole cycle starts again.  It’s all so tiring.

My therapist tells me to not let my life ‘get small’ but I don’t really want to make it big.  I’m not ready to deal with that yet.  I enjoy the simplicity of my life now.  The idea of stress sends me on edge.

7 months, can’t believe it.  Darcy had a dance recital today and it was a really great day.  Seems so wrong that we continue to live our lives with such a huge piece missing.  Sigh.

Our Cemetery Story

It’s time to share another story of weird ‘coincidences,’ of hope, which is quite interesting given the tile of this post.  How I ever found hope in a cemetery is very strange indeed.

I never liked cemeteries, the eerie graves, the gates that scream ‘keep out!’  Maybe it’s too many Halloween stories, but I never felt comfortable in one.  Even when my mom died, I didn’t find peace visiting her there.  It was weird and uncomfortable.  Maybe it was just all too real.  It just wasn’t me, I didn’t feel her presence there, because I knew that she wasn’t.

Right after the accident happened and we were scrambling to pull together arrangements, our friends Sandy and Mike offered a burial plot for Benny.  We hadn’t even wrapped our heads around what we wanted to do yet and the medical examiner hadn’t released Bennett yet.  God it sounds so awful to say that, but it’s the truth.  About a week or two after the accident we finally had to make a decision and we decided to cremate Benny.  I’d never really given much thought to what I would want done with my body when I passed, never mind my 17 month old baby.  It was just one more way to draw out having to make a decision, having to bury him, having to deal with the horror of it all.  So he became dust and sat at the funeral home for several months.

I knew that I wanted to have him blown into glass, Parker wanted to take him on the Great Race down the East coast, but we had all the time in the world to figure that out now.  It was a good breather from the chaos of the first few weeks.  I was sitting with the therapist over the winter and talking about the cremation.  We had no idea what to do with his remains and for the first time I realized I wanted to bury him.  Sure we could scatter him, but where?  ‘If I don’t bury him, it will be like he never existed, there will be no headstone, no place where he is physically.’ As I said this, my therapist teared up.  I realized how sad that would truly be and that we needed to do something.

We talked about burying him on his birthday and quickly nixed that idea as I realized that we couldn’t explain to Darcy and friends that Benny was in a tiny box.  We were having a hard enough time explaining the whole body/soul connection.  Tara came over one Sunday to help me paint and we began planning and looking into cemeteries.  I felt strongly that Benny was buried in the same place as Sandy and Mike, that they had some claim to him too.  They are such a part of our lives, our children’s lives.  They are family.  So we figured we would start with Worcester County Memorial Park.  That’s when Benny started to intervene again.

We started talking about this on Sunday, unbeknownst to Sandy who was meeting with Marie from WCMP on Monday.  She had seen her at a home show and had made an appointment.  On Monday, I received a text from Sandy saying that Marie would be contacting us.  Great, I thought, one less thing to do.  We met with Marie on Thursday and sat down to listen to our choices.  Marie didn’t know our story, all that she knew was that we lost our son.  They have a section at WCMP set aside for babies under 1.  She said that they would make an exception and that Benny could be buried there if we wished.  To be honest, the thought of even being confronted with a baby cemetery was too much.  I was horrified.  Given my feeling on cemeteries in general, this wasn’t a good start.  We reviewed our options and headed over to the cemetery to take a look.  I had it in my head that none of this mattered, I would never go, I hated these places.

On the ride out to Paxton, Parker’s landlord from the shop called.  She and I talked for a moment, and then we lost service.  I figured we would see her when we got back to the shop.  We talked about the idea of the baby cemetery and what we wanted to do.  It was an uncomfortable car ride as we both tried to keep it together.

To call WCMP a cemetery is unfair.  It is a park as it’s name states.  It is separated into gardens and there are no headstones, only monuments, so all that you see are the rolling hills surrounding you.  It was absolutely breathtaking and peaceful.  There is no fence, you can visit whenever you wish.  We drove around, taking it all in and ended up at the office, right in front of the ‘Garden of Angels.’  I was surprised at how peaceful it all felt, how right.  I mean it was sad, but not as depressing as I had anticipated.  The monuments were decorated with flowers and toys and we looked at this space as something good for Darcy as well.  Somewhere she could bring trucks and balls for her lost brother.  We knew this was where we belonged in the future, but we left there still needing to think about Benny.

We got back to the shop and stopped in to chat with the landlord.  To call her that seems silly, she is one of the nicest, caring people and we have always been friendly.  She asked what we were doing in Paxton, because there’s really nothing out that way.  Parker said we had some errands to run.  Our landlord stopped, thought for a second and looked at us, ‘you were at the cemetery,’ she said, ‘my son is buried in the Garden of Angels.’  She too had lost a baby years ago, but we had no idea that he was there.  We looked at each other and decided to take it as a sign that this is where Benny should go.

We bought our future plots and signed all of the paperwork.  Part of it felt good to know that it’s all taken care of, that our family won’t have to deal with any of this when the time comes.  We hemmed and hawed about Benny’s monument, but WCMP came through and was able to get ‘Captain Crazy’ added above his name.  It was very appropriate for our little man.  We also had a bear added, our ‘Benny Bear.’  They were putting a rush on the order and were miraculously able to get it in in very short order.  We had expected it for May 17th, but were surprised when it was there on May 8th when we buried him.

I was talking to my new friend Sue one day after yoga.  I had told her how we had started pulling together arrangements and that we would be burying Benny at WCMP.  Sue got the same look as when I told her about the sunflowers.  Her son that had passed was buried at WCMP too.  This just felt so much like our boys were giving us a sign again.  That was without a doubt when I knew that this was where Benny belonged.  He wouldn’t be alone, not by a long shot.

When I look back at my post from May 17, this where we started about 6 weeks before.  Things just came together and it was if Benny was orchestrating it all for us.  I know in my heart of hearts that he has been there guiding us through it all.  I would be a fool to take these signs for granted, so I’ll take them for what they are.  We’re lucky, blessed that our little man is trying to help us tie up loose ends.  I love you little guy.

 

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.