Grief is oppressive, conniving, manipulative and sneaky. She is the playground bully. She plays by her own set of rules with absolutely no sense of fairness. And like any good “bully” she is a master at her craft. She likes to change these rules without warning, leaving you in a near constant state of dread for what may be lurking around the corner. Her greatest joy seems to be in snatching yours.
She begins with taking days once associated with celebration and then “bullies” you until you begin to relinquish your joy to her omnipotent power and presence. And just like on the “playground” those of us who grieve band together because anyone who has suffered a “bully” knows there is not only safety in numbers but comfort.
Tomorrow is Mother’s Day and the “bully” is out in full force. She has spent the last few days taunting us with how special this day is going to be, knowing good and well when the day approaches she will blind side you with a punch to your gut that tells you another day is coming that you must endure. And this time it is blatant in your face kind of taunting to remind you that you will be missing someone on Mother’s Day and will receive one less piece of gluey art work than is rightfully yours. You will not receive a card that says, “from all of us” and you have zero desire to be taken to brunch to try to “make it up” because although you don’t wish your pain on anyone, it is sometimes just too much to witness others who are blessed with all of their rightful artwork and cards signed, “from all of us.”
Dealing with the “bully” called “grief” is an ugly business and I have gradually accepted that I need others in my corner to “deal” with her because like most “bullies” she is somewhat relentless. Facing her alone is unbearable. As Mother”s Day is upon us I remember the members of “The Club” facing this day without their “babies” and I pray for their pain and I pray they find a member to lean on as they struggle with all of their might to endure.
Below is my story of life in “The Club” that I shared in Listen to Your Mother as part of the DC cast. Without members of “The Club” I wouldn’t have had the strength…thank you!
THE CLUB – Listen to Your Mother – April 28, 2013
I belong to a club. One that I did not, nor would ever, ask to join. In fact, none of the members want to belong.
It’s an odd club. Members come from all walks of life and are thrown together. We DO NOT want to belong and by all means: we DO NOT want new members. ”Misery loves company” does not apply. The dues are unforgiving. The price: your Child’s Life.
New members joined us on Friday, December 14, 2012, in Newtown, CT. Like all members, they did not apply and we did not recruit them.
Each member has a unique story and has experienced their own personal hell. Though many of us can relate to each other and share a similar kind of hell. For some, the only commonality we share is that we have buried our babies. Whether our babies died in the womb, never drew their first breath, spent only a finite amount of time on this earth, fought a horrible disease, battled drugs or took their own lives. No matter the details of our story, burying your child is Hell.
I have been a member of this club for two years. With each story I hear, I think, I can feel their pain, it is truly a living hell. A bereaved parent’s pain is unimaginable to those not in the club.
Our precious daughter, Madeline was 16 months old. Although considered medically fragile, she died suddenly, within minutes, before our eyes. The trauma of Madeline’s sudden death and surrounding circumstances haunts me, but if there is any comfort, I know she was in loving, caring hands.
There is no comfort that can come from your child’s life being taken by an unspeakable act of violence and terror.
The parents and families of those precious children who lost their lives at Sandy Hook are in a hell that, only some club members sadly can fathom. It is a living hell that exists for those whose children had their lives taken at the unforgiving, brutal hands of another. It is heart wrenching to know that their children experienced unspeakable terror, fear and pain in their last moments and there was nothing they could do to protect them.
The horror of those children’s last moments and wondering how their families will ever learn to live without their child…those images have played on a loop in my head since that December day.
I heard on the news about a few more “kids” being laid to rest in Newtown, CT. My initial thought, those “kids” are someone’s babies. Don’t they deserve more than that? To remember their names. To honor their lives.
I can tell you as a club member, that we must remember. Their names. Their sweet faces. Each child is someone’s precious girl or little guy. When I hear the debates surrounding gun control and mental health, I cannot engage. My heart and mind keep going to those families who have buried their babies. Who are beyond suffering.
I think of the rawness and complete state of numbness that our minds and bodies shift into with the death of our babies. The feeling that we simply cannot lift one foot – as the weight of our grief is unbearable. This raw, life altering, grief defies explanation.
The constant replays of our last hug, our last kiss, our last moments together, whatever they may have been. The unimaginable “what-if” and “if-only” that play on a continual reel to reel in our heads. Trying to endure a new minute, a new hour, a new day, knowing we will never… in this life…hear our child’s voices, see their sweet faces or snuggle our babies again. The panic I know these new members will feel. That feeling of I must see my baby…I cannot bear another moment without my child. Yet, we must, we have to, we do.
I wish I had no idea what it is like to bury my child. But I do. So I am scared. Scared for the parents and families left behind. Scared for their grief and pain. Their sleepless nights. Scared for their unstoppable, body wrenching tears that will flow. The nightmares that will inevitably haunt them. Scared for the strength they don’t know they have, or if they have, just to get out of bed.
Although we do not want to be joined together by these experiences…we do not want to belong…we do. So, we try to make the best of it. To lean on each other when the weight of our own grief will not let us stand upright. To find another member that says, “I understand”, “I know just how you feel.” Having each other is not what we want, we want our babies back…but we hold ourselves up with one hand while leaning on the shoulders of fellow members with the other. This is the ultimate in strength, as we struggle to find our balance.
We look at each other with knowing eyes and embrace each other in a way that says you are not alone, we are with you.
Grief is a marathon, a perpetual marathon. Not a sprint. There are too many hurdles to clear. It is a test of endurance that no one wants to try to pass. Many of us gather strength from each other in our club. Many of us just simply…endure. I pray that these families find comfort in the days to come and are able to simply…endure.