I have five posts waiting to get posted and here I am starting another one. Forever the procrastinator, I guess, something that death hasn't helped. Oh well.
Tonight I went to a support group, sponsored by The Compassionate Friends, geared towards getting the bereaved parent through the holidays. My normal grief night (as my daughter calls it) is put on by a different organization, Grief Share, and it's a smaller group, held at my church, with people I know. In other words, it feels much safer, and it's also closer to home.
As I was driving there, I was really struck by what I was doing and how I couldn't have ever imagined that I'd have to be doing it, just a few months ago. Last year at this time, I was thinking about the holidays in relation to when (if) my husband would be able to come home, what I needed to buy to prepare and when I'd start decorating. Last year I was like some of the people out there now...I had no idea I'd need these people. Now, I'm going to strange churches, walking up the steps with other people who are just like me: they've all had a child (or children, which I cannot fathom) die. We are out there. Everywhere. You probably interact with many of us each day and may never know. I pray that you never have to know. As the guest speaker said, "I'm sorry I have to know you, but I'm really glad you came." I still can't get over the vast amount of literature out there on grief, especially in regard to losing a child, or that there are all these "secret" groups in cities all over the world. God, I wish I'd been chosen for membership in a different club. I think almost any other club would've been ok. Things are just so different and never, ever can I go back.
How I hate the truths of death: you will never get over it, you can never go back, you will now have a new normal and my least favorite at this moment...the second year is the hardest. Oh my God, NO! I'm not even sure I'll make it through the first one yet and you're telling me it's going to get worse? I know why and it's why I was prepared for this first year to get really difficult, not easier...because the gift of shock wears off. As the speaker said, we defrost. I know we have to defrost to grow, to be able to move through it and not get stuck on frozen, but the thought of more pain is...crushing, I guess. I really try not to borrow trouble, which is why I was a little leery about going to a group that was going to "prepare" me for something so hard. I hate surprises and yet, I'd rather stay in a place where I can pretend that it's not going to be different, even though I know it's going to hurt, instead of dreading the pain ahead of time. When I get shots or give blood, I always tell them not to warn me, don't try to help me prepare myself because I'll prepare all right.. by moving the hell out of the range of target practice. If only I had that option now.
And, so, I dragged myself to a new group, a new room full of bereaved parents, because someone in this household has to be prepared, someone in this household is supposed to be doing this support group thing, right? I looked around the room and, as I thought might be the case, saw that I was the youngest mom there. No matter how similar our stories might be, no other mom lost my Brandon...my forever teenage boy. I wondered if the other people were taking similar notes, wondering what my story was, wondering how long it had been since death had forever changed me. I looked at the few couples there and wondered how their marriages were faring...are they able to comfort each other or are they too broken to grieve together, is the pain ripping their marriage apart? A woman sitting near me looked how I felt...eyes swollen, her shoulders heaving up and down with her sobs, hands full of Kleenex, her broken heart on the ground, right at her feet, right near my own heart. Death snatched her son 13 days before mine, just after he'd turned 21, and she said she just misses her son. I know. I really, really know.
After the guest speaker was done, we broke up into smaller groups and then, after we were done there, we came back into the main hall to close. At the end, we formed a big circle to hold hands (and I hoped no animal sacrificing or seances would be held-hey, I was new) and say the name of our child/ren, and one of the main facilitators spoke, though I couldn't tell you one word of what he said. There were books to check out, some great poems that I'll share later and lots of pictures of kids that have died, and there I was thinking OMG this is like an AA meeting. We have our little sticky name tags, we're reminded that everything said is confidential, you can spot the newbies to the meeting right away because the pain, the struggle, is hanging off of them like cheap clothes. There are people who are 35 years in and people like me who are a few months in and the long-timers welcome you and handle you very carefully, but you see in their eyes the knowledge of what is to come for you and you look away and try really hard to keep it together, to not turn and just run to your car and never come back. I stayed. The entire time. I even showed up before anyone else because I had the time wrong and that alone almost had me back at the door, but with God's grace I made it.
The main thing I took away was the title of this post. The speaker, a local psychologist and published author, lost her little boy at a young age. That first Thanksgiving her daughter, who had been the eldest child until the son's death, was told she had to give a blessing, something that was the responsibility of the youngest child, a status that was now hers. Her daughter was young and initially balked at having to give thanks when she didn't feel thankful for anything. She was told to go into her room and think of something and, before the dessert was eaten, she decided she was ready and her simple, yet profound, prayer was, "Thanks for the little while."
That's right...while we're counting what we've lost and how different things are, when the tears won't stop coming and I am angry that I wasn't allowed more children (even though no other child could come close to the boy) and wishing we had another 60 years with Brandon, we have to say, Thank you God, thank you sweet boy, for the little while. For however much more of the little while that will be in my life, I promise to whisper that message as often as possible and use it to keep your memory alive in this world and contribute something wonderful to this world...as a thanks for the little while. Love and miss you so very much, my precious boy...my little while.