Two years ago tomorrow (the Monday before Thanksgiving), Melissa went BACK to the hospital. This time for good.
Here we go again. The holidays are here already, and I'm NOT ready. (Ready or not, here they come...) Too many memories. It's a VERY difficult time of year for me (us).
For the first time, Donny went to a Compassionate Friends Meeting with me last Thursday. The speaker, Rev. Bobbie Predmore, spoke about "Getting Through the Holidays". A good topic for all of us. Although SHE has not personally been where we are (she's not a member of "THE CLUB NO ONE WANTS TO BELONG TO"...) she had some very good insight and very good suggestions to help all of us.
Most specifically - the best gift you can give a grieving parent? Talk about their child. It's interesting - for some people, it's easier to avoid "us" than to talk about our child. We LOVE to hear their name. We LOVE to hear stories about them.
And, for me anyway, I GUARANTEE I will cry. But that's OK. Please don't NOT talk about our child because we (I) "might" cry. It's part of the healing. We NEED to cry as much as we NEED to hear their name and hear their stories. It will be the best thing you can do for "us".
After the meeting, we also received our monthly Compassionate Friends Newsletter. When I got home, I read a great article in the newsletter. I'd like to share some of it here. It will hopefully help you understand where "we" are coming from. Even two years later...
CONFESSIONS OF A PASTOR...by Rev. Greg Hubbard, Goodland, KS
When I left seminary, there were many things I was prepared for; my mistake was believing I was prepared for everythying. In fact, I was not prepared for everything, but I did not realize how totally unprepared I was until I spent some time as a pastor of a community church.
Even though I had been through four years of college and four years of seminary, there was much I was not ready for. Funerals I knew how to do--at least we had discussed them in school. When it came time to help families through the grief experience, however, I soon realized how woefully inadequate my training had been. I believe many pastors leave seminary feeling as I did--ready to take on the world. I believe many soon discover what I did--that the more I experienced as a pastor, the more I realized how little I really did know.
For instance, I used to believe that the grief experienced by a woman whose husband died, or the man whose brother died, or the parents whose child died was the same. I was wrong. As a caretaker of those God has entrusted to me, I set out to do my best at the funeral, to visit afterward, and I then expected the family to get on with their lives. For themost part, people did, that is, except for one group. This particular group puzzled me. I could not figure out why their tears lasted not just months but years longer. I believe you know which group this is. I wanted to understand why this group-- bereaved parents--got hit so much harder, and what I, as one who cared for them, could do.
I set out to learn all that I could about the death of a child. The more I learned, the worse I felt. The group that I had been treating like any other turned out not to be like any other. I no longer believed that all grief was the same--that is to say, that all deaths yielded the same reaction in the grieving process. Some may disagree, but as far as I am concerned, the greatest loss any human can sustain is the death of a child.
I thought over what I had said to bereaved parents to ease their pain. It hurt me to learn I had been just as much a part of the problem as I had thought I was a part of the solution. I also realized that solutions, though possible, are very hard to come by. I learned how inadequate my answers were in the face of a child's death. I came to understand that although it goes against a preacher's constitution, it was often better to keep my mouth closed and listen as one who cared than it was to offer verbal dribble. It was embarrassing to find that I too, was guilty of the disappearing pastor syndrome following the death of a child.
As a result of my post-seminary crash course in parental grief, I've learned a lot of good things. I do not ever tell a parent they can always have another child. I don't attempt to answer "why?" I love them even when they get mad at God. I reassure them that they aren't crazy. I help them through anxiety attacks. I listen more than I talk. I never tell them I know how they feel--they know and I know that I don't. I always tell them and show them that I care. I never ask them to tell me what I can do for them; they won't. I just show up regularly to say I remember and I care. I never let them blame themselves for things God alone has control of. I talk about their child frequently and openly.
***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** *****
(these are excerpts - it was Reprinted from The National Compassionate Friends Newsletter, Sprint 1991) and I felt it was important enough to share.
He also mentions sitting down with your pastor and telling them what bereaved parents go through. "It might surprise them to learn how long grief lasts or that many parents leave their child's room untouched for years".
I'm not sharing with my pastor. I'm sharing with my friends. YOU. Because, hopefully, it will help you understand where we are coming from - and, quite possibly you know someone else who has lost a child. (His last paragraph especially has some good advice!)
Needless to say, I will continue to talk about Melissa. I will ALWAYS LOVE to hear her name and stories about her. And I will cry. I promise. I love her and miss her EVERY. SINGLE. DAY.
and in TRUE Fort fashion, we end with Drew pics. A happy ending. Always.
(Max gets his turn on another Friday night!)
WE had Drew Friday night - decided to take him to the Mall just in case Santa arrived early ... and guess what? HE DID! Drew got to see Santa (no pictures unfortunately unless we paid 39.99 for the cheapest package...I'm cheap AND I have a good camera), and he got to ride the train around the Mall with Pamma and go to the Toy Store AND see puppies in the puppy mill...er.. Pet Shop....
Hmmmm...maybe SANTA might bring Drew a new helmet for Christmas....(since that little green basket he uses for a helmet is pathetic...)
OK - I KNOW I JUST posted this picture, but hey - it's one of my FAVORITES.
HAPPY THANKSGIVING from our house to yours....