When your loved one first dies, the last thing you are thinking about is whether or not you need to get to a support meeting. It doesnít enter your mind until after some time passes; life quiets down again after all the services are done and family and friends are around less and less.
For a long time you think that there is no one else on earth that could feel like you do and that there is no one who will ever understand. You begin to wonder if maybe youíre alone in this world and that there isnít a person or a place to which you can turn to find some small bit of solace. People around you might recommend a particular book to read or a church group to attend. Some offer their ear and shoulder but they know they cannot understand how you really feel; often they find what youíre going through unimaginable. But they are kind and do their best. For me, I didnít want to read anything as it felt like it might hurt too much and turning to a religion wasnít my thing.
Somehow along the way you recognize that you need something or someone. You begin to feel so completely disconnected that you feel like youíre crazy with your thoughts and grief and pain. You wonder if maybe being around another who has lost their child might feel like the right place to be. Perhaps it will be safe. Perhaps they will know how I am feeling. Maybe theyíll know Iím not crazy and that my grieving is normal.
Entering the doors of that first support group meeting was surreal. Were we actually at a meeting with people who had lost their children? Were we really qualified to be there? They donít know us and therefore could not possibly understand. Did we have to speak? Do I have to show these strangers just how vulnerable I am and how broken I am? Why do they want to know my name and my daughterís name? Will they protect her and honor her? Will they respect us and our privacy in our sorrow? I wanted to run and never go back. I didnít want to be part of this group. I did not want to lose my daughter to a support group. I did not want to be the parent of a deceased child.
But they were kind. They cared about us, about our daughter. They didnít care if we spoke or cried or left the room. They didnít ask us to be something we were not. They took us in, sat with us and listened to one another. They shared their childrenís names and pictures and birth dates and death dates. They told their stories and talked about their emotions and validated our own.
That meeting was 4 months after our daughter died. It took us another 7 months to go to our next meeting. They welcomed us then as they had the first time. And we took comfort knowing that we were not alone.
A website has been established in our daughter's name. Please click here for more information about our mission.
FriendsofAine.com - Aine Marie Phillips
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The Compassionate Friends