by Karen Grover
In January, 1987, my husband and I became members of a very exclusive club. We had been only vaguely aware of its existence, and we thought that surely a chapter in a city the size of ours wouldn't have many members.
We had seen a few people who belonged to the club, but we didn't seem to have anything in common with them, so we didn't really get to know them. Occasionally, we read stories in the newspaper about new members being initiated into the club, but it didn't seem likely that we would ever be eligible to join, so we paid no attention.
The price of membership is so dear that we couldn't imagine being a part of the club. We must have realized in the backs of our minds that people didn't choose to join and pay the dues--it was done for them somehow. In fact, no one really has any idea of how members are selected. There are a lot of theories; but much of the time, the theories come from non-members who don't understand much about the situation.
The "club" we are now in (although it is not an organized group), is known as "bereaved parents." The cost of our membership was the life of our son; and we, like all other members, have no idea why we were selected for membership.
No one wants to be in this club. Even now, months afterward, inside our hearts and minds we continue to fight membership, but there is no resigning from it. It is an automatic lifetime membership. There was no way to avoid it--we did the best we could to keep our son safe. For fourteen years, we guided him through dangers, only to have him die in a seemingly minor auto accident. Though we lay awake night after night, and think of it day after day, there is no answer as to why we have been thrust into this select group. We hate it and we cry out in protest, but there is no way to change it.
We have learned a lot since our membership began. We now understand much about the other members. In fact, we seek to be with them, to have regular get-togethers, to discuss our membership, and try to understand its value.
Sometimes, those outside the club are afraid of us, fearing that if they come near us or talk with us, they will be selected to become members too! Acquaintances often try to ignore the membership, pretending that it doesn't exist. They seem to think that will make things easier, and then the members won't feel "different," but it really only makes things much worse.
So many times, I have wanted someone to say hello or to tell me she has been thinking of me or to mention something about the absent child who still lives inside me and overshadows all my thoughts. I have heard people say, "I don't want to upset her, or remind her of her son, or say something that will make her cry."
I want to tell them: "The only way you can make me feel worse than I already do is to pretend that it doesn't exist or that it isn't as deep and painful as you surely know it is.
Have you ever experienced the feeling of having one terrible incident go through your mind, day after day, week after week, month after month, wondering why it happened and how you could have prevented it? Well, don't worry about reminding me of my son. I am thinking about him nearly twenty-four hours a day.
"Sure, sometimes my mind is temporarily distracted--it would have to be to function at all. But if you think there is even one day that goes by without my child's death tearing up my heart, then you have no idea what this club is all about."
I appreciate your talking about my child, or at least letting me talk about him. He was a very large part of my life, and ignoring him now will really hurt me. It makes me think that you feel he's no longer important because he's gone. It hurts to think that people don't want to think about him or remember good things about him, just because he has died.
"I understand that you don't want to say anything that will make me cry. That sounds kind, and I used to feel that way too, but now I know better. I'd rather the tears didn't come when you talk to me because I know they may scare you away, or at least make you very uncomfortable. But I've learned how useful and necessary they are. If I go too long without tears, my body builds up a terrible pressure from the pain of the grief. If you will allow me to cry in your presence, perhaps I won't have to cry alone, wondering if anyone else remembers, or even cares, about my loss.
"You can't know what will make me cry--sometimes I don't know, myself. Some days I stay dry-eyed through nearly everything. Other days, the slightest thing will start the tears--things you could not possibly imagine or anticipate. Not all the tears are tears of sorrow. Even in the midst of my anguish, I sometimes cry tears of joy and relief because you have reached out; because you have confirmed that my son was special; perhaps because you have shared with me some precious memory about him which I had not known before.
"Please don't run away from me. Don't pretend his death never occurred, or even worse, that he never lived! I still love him, think of him, need to remember. Please share with me and we will both feel better.
"I am learning that God is not punishing me. He did not cause the death of my son. But, He can help me to grow through this experience--to become stronger and wiser and more caring, if I have some help. Initially, when I was told by a church member that I would change and grow stronger through this experience, I wanted to scream that if it meant giving up my son, I didn't want to change or get stronger. But I know I have no choice about that now--he is gone. Now my choices are to either let God, and friends, help me to become better; or I can choose to allow this grief to destroy me.
"I have to experience the grief. I can't pretend it doesn't hurt, or hurry it along. That's what membership in this club is teaching me. I am choosing to allow God to take an unspeakable experience and use it to start life again...in a new and better way.
I found this on one of the grief websites I visit and it really touched my heart. It says what I'm feeling better than I can...