Saturday, July 4, 2015

Finding Compassion

We knew we were in for a crappy time when we found out the extent of Obie's problems.  As we've mentioned before, when he was still alive we were mostly able to compartmentalize that and focus on our wonderful son.  After Obie passed away, we started thinking about the things the social worker and other bereaved parents had recommended that we try.  Things like therapy.

We tried couple's therapy for five or six visits.  It wasn't for us.  Not sure if it was the therapist or us, but it didn't really help.  It didn't really hurt either.  We can see how it could be helpful, depending on how you process things, and we wouldn't want to dissuade anyone from giving it a try.

Like so much else, it takes experience to truly understand this whole bereaved parent thing.  We don't expect people who haven't lost children to get it.  There's no way they could.  That's probably the main reason that a support group has helped us.  We've been attending our local chapter of Compassionate Friends since March.  Some people have been there every time, some haven't.  Some come as a couple, some by themselves.  Some are new (like us), some have lived with the loss much longer.  Some people lost young children, but most it seems lost adults.

It's scary to hear these loss stories.  It makes everything horribly real.  The first meeting was overwhelming as we heard each story for the first time.  Now we're hearing stories for the second, third, or fourth time, and while still terrible, it is less shocking.

Even if we someday have a child that doesn't have extreme health issues, that's no guarantee that we'll outlive him or her.  It's sobering.  Things we never thought about have happened to people in our community - undiagnosed congenital defects, accidental overdoses, car accidents, medical mistakes, cancers, homicides... all these things happen.  They always happened in general, on the nightly news or on the internet.  Now they've happened to people we know.  This is not a community anyone wants to join, but it's not one you can ever really leave.

Elizabeth cries at every meeting.  But in this place, no one tries to get her to stop.  This community truly understands that stifling grief helps no one.  Not everyone cries the whole meeting, but Elizabeth isn't the only one who does.

Some very strange emotions have come up during and after these meetings.  Every loss is different, and we can't truly understand what other parents are dealing with.  Even so, we have involuntary reactions and we'll often discuss some of that on the way home.  One of the strangest things we realized is we're a little bit jealous of some of these people.  It's crazy!  We're jealous that they got to raise their children into adults, or jealous that they have other living children, and sometimes just jealous that there wasn't something wrong for their child's whole life.  We know it's ludicrous to truly believe that our grief is somehow bigger or worse, but we also realize how much we would cherish those days, months, years of parenting.  Those memories.

Only a year ago, we would have responded very differently.  These stories would have brought out feelings of pity, fear, hopefully some empathy, but mostly something else.  We're not exactly sure how to put it, it's that feeling of insulation from the horrors of the world.  That reliance that those horrible things could never happen to you or your loved ones.  It would always be a comfortable distance away.

How things have changed.  How we have changed.

Original artwork by CarlyMarie.

1 comment:

  1. I think it's totally normal human nature to be jealous and to compare people's circumstances, even tragic ones. For you to be jealous that someone got to raise their child, have years with them, completely makes sense to me. For others, people may be jealous that you had warning that Obie wasn't going to survive so that you could savor his lifetime and dedicate all his time to being loved. I am close to someone who had a full term stillborn, and her saddest part was that she never got to meet her daughter. I don't know how she'd feel in your group, but she may be jealous of simply seeing her child's eyes open. She made comments on how hard it was to grieve for someone she never met.

    Some people likely have big regrets about how they handled situations, worked too much, yelled too much, etc. There's good and bad to every story, even ones with very sad and harsh realities.

    I commend you guys continuing to grieve together, openly, and publicly. Grief and sadness does not have to be stifled. We think of you and sweet Obie often (as I know others do too. Keep in mind if you're surprised or hurt when people don't reach out that sometimes people simply don't know what to say or do. The default, doing nothing, seems hurtful but it's often out of worry for doing or saying the wrong thing)

    We will continue thinking of you guys