Thursday, October 15, 2009

...but Henry died.

For some time now, I have felt like life is mostly a series of distractions interrupted by thoughts of Henry. My time alone or with Tara and the girls feels like I'm 'backstage', an intermission separating the prior act and the next act, where we can acknowledge the pain, where I know we all think of Henry, and where we can recuperate in order to go on again.

The 'act' is not about being fake or pretending. It's just that there is rarely any recognition of what happened. Henry's life and death sit with me constantly and it takes energy and concentration and determination to make normal things happen. The conversation in my head goes something like...
  • "time to shower...but Henry died"
  • "time to get up...but Henry died"
  • "isn't this a nice day?...but Henry died"
  • "I'm so glad that Anna and Sophie are doing well in school...but Henry died."
It's not so discrete as that, but the sentiment is the same. The thoughts are nebulous and emotional impulses, less than conversations. Momentarily distracted, happy and content, appreciative of life, then somber and pensive, mournful, sometimes devastated all over again.

We've been going to a bereavement group at Johns Hopkins for families of deceased children. Like so many things right now, the impulse to participate was coupled with a strong desire to stay away. Can we really be emotionally supportive of others? Do we want to be drawn into others suffering. Do we want to dredge up memories that come when we travel to Hopkins, pass the Children's House, see the window he stood at and looked out of?

Our second session was last night. The girls have separate groups attended by social workers and other age-similar friends. They really enjoy it. They don't anxiously anticipate the negative things like we do, but really embrace the activity and specialness of it. I'm sure they feel a similar yet even more nebulous relief.

I'm not sure how to explain it but these sessions are like dedications. They provide concentrated time in which we can all look at each other, understand the pain and devastation in each others eyes and empathize with the daily plight of working through the day. The difficult thing is that although some of the group have been going for years, there are still persistent tears and the pain doesn't seem so much different. That is at the same time hopeful and depressing. Honestly, in some ways, I hope that never goes away. Somehow the pain feels like the only thing that keeps me connected.

And there is the contradiction that I cannot seem to get past. Henry's memory is so intimately tied up with the pain and suffering that trying to avoid one is avoiding the other. This is not only undesirable, but impossible. So these families that sit around our table on these nights all have the same thing in common. Life is good, we appreciate it. We are grateful for our health and our children in ways that some cannot...but our children our dead and that will never change.


Anonymous said...

Our arms and hearts are wrapped around you, Tara and the girls.. Thank you for sharing.


A Doc 2 Be said...

My heart and thoughts are with you and Tara and your girls.

I wish I had magic words to impart letting you know "when" things would feel normal again... sadly, they never do... we, as parents, just adjust our thoughts to the new reality.

Every day, my son Austin, crosses my mind in some form or fashion. I don't dwell, don't cry, but it's been 23 years of learning how to adjust to the fact that I'm a parent of a dead child.

I am thankful I got to hold and love him. I'm thankful I got something that some mom's (and dad's) never get...

FWIW, I'm proud if I can say that to complete strangers, that you are embracing the bereavement group. While it sucks wet-dog-fur now, I think it will help you and your family tremendously as your lives continue to evolve.... which, by the way, lives do anyway whether or not there is a deceased child.

/hugs and thoughts and much warmth


Anonymous said...

Your words echo exactly what we have been going through. I wish that Henry, Sophia, and all the lost children could come back to us. We continue to think of your family often and hope that you are finding the smiles in each day.

Shirley, Wayne, Fiona, and Angel Sophia

Anonymous said...

There is nothing to say that will help...just thoughts and prayers for all of you.

Michelle said...

Thank you for your honesty. It is impossible for me to understand your pain, but you express it with such wisdom and deep insight. The intricate web of emotions so hard to prayer for your family is that you will successfully navigate this sea of emotion and be stronger as a family and as individuals as you do. You are always in prayers, and Henry is always on my heart.