Prose & Poetry

Walk Conversations

One said it felt good to walk.  She was looking for more opportunities to walk. We marveled at the white egret in view from our path through Basset Creek Park.

Another had questions about the monthly meetings. Are there lecturers? Is there time to talk? His voice was cracked with extreme sorrow.  I glanced at his walk bib with his child’s name and year of loss.  2015. He was just a few months into it. He spoke of the hole in his heart.  He spoke of complicated grief.

Eleven years out, I know the hurt diminishes. He doesn’t know that yet.  Neither did I at that point my grief journey.  It takes time to soften extreme sorrow.

Another conversation during the 2015 Walk to Remember for the TCF Minneapolis chapter was on anger. The big A. That too is worthy of monthly topic status.

Another conversation was on photography along with new friendships.
Joy was evident too.

Then there was another conversation with three old TCF friends. I love them all.
All characters. All wonderfully strong in their grief.  Still wrestling with the
“I don’t know how to do this…” scenarios.

Walking helps. Talking helps. Taking in a longer breath in and slowly out helps. There are lots of ways to walk through grief.

We had an exceptional walk.  Thanks, everyone.  We are already planning the walk again this year.

Monica Colberg, Art’s Mom
Member, The Compassionate Friends

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The Emotions of Grief

  • Guilt and regret are common emotions of grief.  Many bereaved parents feel that if only they would have done or said something different, the death might not have occurred.  By openly sharing your feelings of guilt and regret with others who understand your loss, you may come to a place where you can forgive yourself or come to an understanding that you could not have prevented your child’s death.
  • Despair and loneliness are common emotions of grief.  You may still feel alone even when you are with a group of people.  Few people can truly understand how deeply a bereaved parent hurts unless they have experienced a similar loss.  People usually understand grief to the level they have experienced it.  Finding support from others who have experienced a similar loss can help.
  • Anger is a common emotion in grief.  Anger is often aimed at a person that is believed to have caused the death, at others who cannot understand your feelings, at God and sometimes at the child who died.  Anger is not always expressed in negative ways.  Many bereaved parents have directed their anger in positive ways, by working to change laws, build foundations, raise money, fund scholarships and other avenues as a catalyst for positive change.
  • A wish to join your child who died is a normal and natural reaction to the pain you are experiencing.  If these feelings become overwhelming and you begin to consider taking action, it is imperative that you seek professional support immediately.

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After the First Year

After the first year,
The pain changes from a crushing weight
To a wickedly cutting edge.
Time speeds up from grinding plodding
To a more normal routine
And sometime you can forget ( for a moment)
That your whole life was destroyed
Just last year.
After the first year
You start to remember the good times
And you can tell a funny story about your child
And save the crying for later,
But sometimes it seems like you’re the only one left who mourns.
” What’s the matter with you anyway?”
” It’s been a whole year.”
After the first year your child seems  a little  closer
and yet still so far away.
miracles of miracles, you haven’t forgotten
How he walks, his voice, the shape of his head
Or the solid warmth of his fingers curving around yours.
Those memories ambush you at many unlikely moments
And tear you apart.
After the first year,
your heart begins to thaw.
You remember that you once loved your surviving children
And you love them again.
You remember that life used to hold,
And you rediscover some small enjoyment in living.
After the first year
You pick up your burdens and go on.
Amazingly you have survived a blow more painful that anything
You  ever imagine.
Even though you wish you could have died too,
It slowly dawns on you that you must still live
because after the first year comes the second year.
 By Liz Ford-  TCF, Madison, WI
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Difficulty Breathing

It’s been 4 years and 11 days since my daughter Molly died. “They” said it would get better. It doesn’t…it just changes. When I say this, I must caution you that this is just my personal experience. Your experience may be different. In fact, for many of you, things do get better…with time. In reality, each of us is alone in our grief as in our lives. We may be surrounded by wonderful and loving friends and family and have a great support system, but in the end we have to live with our own thoughts and deal with our own grief. No one can make it better for you. I find as time goes on I am learning a lot about the transformation of grief. No one could have told me…I had to experience it on my own. I do know that, many of you that have lost children, have some clue as to what I am talking about.

It wasn’t until this year when we received a box of Molly’s things from her husband….clothes and personal jewelry…that reality finally hit me. For 4 years I was numb…even though I was able to express many of my feelings of grief and at times to feel some joy in my life. But touching and smelling her clothing and seeing my wife try on some of her jewelry was incredibly real.

Molly’s future and her husband’s were tragically cut short when she was in the prime of her life…just starting to build a life. Our lives ended the day she died as well. All of the future that we had dreamed about was suddenly ended when she took her last breath. We had to go on, drawing breath into our own lungs, but it seemed unnatural to continue to do so while Molly’s corpse lay in that bed in the Hospice. We had to go on for our son and for others in our lives but it was much more difficult and seemed laborious to do so.

Reality seems like it must be more difficult to deal with…but I have no choice…I have to keep on living. Up to this point in our lives I never really understood that dying is a part of living, in the same way that birth is. Until my dying breath I am sure that I will never be able to grasp all of this. I can no longer search for answers that are not there…all I can do is keep on going one day at a time.

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 I Cried

I cried hot burning tears…

That stung my soul as they stung my cheeks.

I closed my eyes wishing I could close my ears

As those awful words were said…

Those evil cruel words that no one wanted to say…

Your child is gone….

Your child is no more.

But you are not gone, don’t they know?

For you are here…

Right here in my broken aching heart.

And I cry hot burning tears…

That sting my soul as they sting my cheeks.

©2004 Bobbie Sheranko

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What Should I Say?

 What to Say When Someone Has Lost a Child

Friends of our family recently lost a child. What can we say to them that will be comforting and not offensive?

Answer: If you have never lost a child, it’s extremely difficult to know what to say to someone who has. The death of a child is unnatural, unfair and tragic. It’s completely natural for friends of the grieving parents to want to reach out and help — yet struggle with the right words to say. The words you do say — and the ones you don’t — can deeply affect someone in need.

Parents who have lost a child want to feel supported in the grief and have permission to grieve in their own way. They need to feel like their child’s life was of unique importance and meant something to others. You can meet your loved one’s needs by keeping the following in mind:

  • Offer a sincere condolence.“I am so sorry for your loss.”
  • Offer open ended support.“If there is anything I can do, please let me know. I’m willing to help in any way.”
  • Offer silence.Don’t feel like you need to fill the empty spaces with talking. Get comfortable with silence and just be present with the grieved parents.
  • When the time is right, express what the deceased child meant to you. This may not be appropriate to do immediately following the child’s death but when the time is right, it can be very meaningful to the parents to hear other people express what the deceased child meant to them. You can include a favorite memory to make it more personal.

What Not to Say When Someone Has Lost a Child

Equally as important as what to say is what not to say.

  • Never say you know how the bereaved parent feels, unless you have also lost a child.
  • Never say “Well, it must have been for the best” or “It was God’s will.” Trying to make sense of loss in these ways can make the grieving parent feel like their child’s death is being minimized.
  • Never say “She’s in a better place now.” That may bring you comfort if you believe in heaven but it may not bring comfort to a parent who is in the worst possible place on earth.
  • Never trivialize your loved one’s story by telling a story of your own. This is their time to grieve so keep the focus on them.
  • Never mention a time-line for grief or the “stages” of grief. Grief doesn’t follow a time-line or move through predictable stages.

Keep in mind that someone who loses a child will never be “back to normal.” They will never “get over it.” The loss of child transforms a person for life. Love and support your grieved friend or loved one for who they are and who they are becoming.

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Marriage Can Survive the Loss of a Child

When people realize three of our children have died, we hear comments about how amazing it is that our marriage survived such a loss. We also hear dumb statements about how lucky we are to have four healthy kids and how our little ones are in a better place.

Realities

The reality is that our marriage survived these heartaches because we worked really hard to make sure the two of us would be okay. The reality is that having surviving children doesn’t lessen the pain of losing children. The reality is that I don’t care where they may be in the after life, I would prefer to have our babies with us.

What to Do for Grieving Parents

If the two of us appear to be defensive … it is because we are defensive. We cringe when we hear what some people say to grieving parents. They have enough to cope with. These couples don’t need to deal with hurtful remarks.

If you don’t know what to say, then don’t say anything. Just give them a hug. Let them know you are available to listen and that you care.

Studies and Statistics About Grieving Parents

There are many who believe that there is an extremely high divorce rate (80-90%) when a couple loses a child. Those claims are based on statistics from a study done by Teresa Rando in 1985. (‘Bereaved parents: particular difficulties, unique factors, and treatment issues’, Social Work, vol. 30, p. 20). In 1999, another survey entitled When a Child Dieswas conducted by The Compassionate Friends organization.

The results about newly bereaved parents didn’t match the earlier findings. It is clear that although couples experience great stress, their marriages aren’t destined to fall apart. “Overall, 72% of parents who were married at the time of their child’s death are still married to the same person. The remaining 28% of marriages include 16% in which one spouse had died, and only 12% of marriages that ended in divorce … Furthermore, even among the 12% of parents whose marriages ended in divorce, only one out of four of them felt that the impact of the death of their child contributed to their divorce.”

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Parental grief is boundless. It touches every aspect of a parent’s being…when a baby dies, parents grieve for the rest of their lives. The grief becomes part of them…as time passes, parents come to appreciate that grief is their link to the child…grief keeps them connected to the child.

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When a child dies, a family experiences disbelief and the raw emotions of grief. How do they cope? Family members who have experienced this loss firsthand share thoughts and insights of the grief journey, how the child’s death has affected their lives, and how finding support from The Compassionate Friends has helped them to survive.

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To our new members:

Coming to your first meeting is the hardest thing to do. But, you have nothing to lose, and much to gain. Try not to judge your first meeting as to whether or not TCF will work for you. The second, third or fourth meeting might not be the time you find the right person…or just the right words spoken that will help you in your grief work.

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The secret of The Compassionate Friends is simple:

As seasoned grievers reach out to the newly bereaved, energy that has been directed inward begins to flow outward, and both are helped to heal.

To our members further down the “Grief Road”:
We need your encouragement and your support. Each meeting, we have new parents. Think back….what would it have been like for you at your first meeting if there had not been any TCF “veterans” to welcome you and share your grief?

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Grief is a solitary journey

No one but you knows the gaping hole left in your life when someone you know has died. And no one but you can mourn the silence that was once filled with laughter and song. It is the nature of love and death to touch every person in a totally unique way. Comfort comes from knowing that people have made the same journey. And solace comes from understanding how others have learned to sing again.

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Communicating with Surviving Children

If you are fortunate to have surviving children, when was the last time you:

  • Told them how important they are to you?
  • Thanked them for their patience with you during these dark hours?
  • Assured them that had it been one of them who died, it would have been just the same?
  • Told them that the reason you struggle so hard to survive is because you want to enjoy life with them again?
  • Reassured them there will be joy and some happiness in your family’s life again when you have had the necessary time to create your new life?
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Sorrow for the dead is the only sorrow from which we refuse to be divorced. Every other wound we seek to heal, every other affliction to forget; but this wound we consider it is a duty to keep open; this affliction we cherish and brood over in solitude.

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There are those days in winter when your world is frozen into a vision of eternal ice, when earth and air are strangers to each other, when sound and color seem forever gone. There are those days in winter when you feel like dying, when life itself surrenders you to anguish, to total mourning and to endless grief.

And then it happens, from a bitter sky, a timid sun strides to his silent battle against the gray and hostile universe. It changes ice to roses, sky to song. And then it happens that your heart recalls some distant joy; gladness from the past. A slender light, then larger, braver, until your mind returns to hope and peace.

Let memories be beauty in your life, like song and roses in the winter sun.

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What can you do to help The Compassionate Friends of Minneapolis?

  • Serve as a greeter at meetings

  • Arrive early to help arrange tables and chairs or stay afterward and help pack up or put the room back in order

  • Volunteer to bring refreshments or treats to share

  • Volunteer to help with the new website, i.e. write an article or share a poem

  • Give a Love Gift (donation) in memory of your child on their birth date and angel date

  • Make a book donation to our library in memory of your child (if the book helped you, it may help others)