By: David Kennedy, Supportive Care Counsellor, based on an anonymous client
I never thought it could happen this way. Of course, that is what we all say afterwards. Funny thing about life and dying – you have to be doing one or the other but, while doing the one, we forget that the other option can show up anytime.
I came to the group reluctantly – that is the easy word – I really came kicking and screaming inside. Yet there was something that pulled me in – curiosity and the idea that perhaps I would find here what I knew I could never find elsewhere. So I came. This is my story.
My child was the center of my life. I called him my miracle child. He was a miracle in that I was told I would never have children and that pain, in and of itself, weighed on me constantly. So, when I found myself pregnant, it was as if the universe had smiled on me and life was a joy. I embraced every day. Then, it was like the switch went off – you know the brilliance of light that is suddenly gone leaving only a blanket of darkness that causes disorientation, until you get a sense of your surroundings. Only this darkness doesn’t allow you to find that sense. There is constant disorientation, and an inability to find equilibrium.
He died. There is no way to make it any softer and still true. He died, and when he died a piece of me, a huge piece, in fact most of me, died too. How is it possible for a 21-year-old miracle boy to die? Doesn’t the fact that he made it into this life, when no one thought it possible, mean that he should be able to live a long time to enjoy that miracle? I guess not. We were too busy living to consider the other option. How he died is not important to this story – it is the fact that he died.
So, here I am sitting in a room at Hospice with 18 other people and I can tell just by the look on their faces that I didn’t have to try to pretend, or try to find words to explain. They all understand this place of sadness, disbelief and senselessness. I was told I didn’t have to say anything if I didn’t want to, and believe me – I didn’t want to. Partly, because it was too painful to open the story to others, and partly because I knew that the dam holding back the emotional flood was pretty frail!
A strange thing happens. I do speak, in fact I speak much more than I imagined I could.
I speak of my son because they wanted to hear his name and what he was like.
I speak because I knew that those listening were listening without judging my ability to “get over this.”
I speak because pain released is so much better than pain withheld.
It is exhausting, but exhausting in a good way. The tears I feared, are tears shared. My search for answers about how to do this are not met with a list of ten things to do, but rather an openness and an invitation to “not knowing” supported by the hope that I will find my way.
As our meeting ends we light a candle and go around the room while each person says the name of their child that died, and then we sit in that air, silently, some crying softly, all of us stilled in the depths of our being. I open my eyes and look at this room and decide it is sacred space.
These walls hold hundreds of stories. Stories spoken in pain, but they are stories that carry the depths of love not found elsewhere. These walls hold these stories gently, graciously, with strength of compassion, and they wait for our next meeting, when again they will witness the love and sadness of a miracle child, born, loved, and lost, and the mom who struggles every day.
This is why I love Hospice. It isn’t because I am given a sheet of things to do, but rather I am offered a space, a sacred space, to be with others who have lost their miracle child. A space where together we live, honour and remember our child.
No matter where Hospice is, or what it looks like, my hope is that there will always be a space to share stories of sadness and love, and a place to find the gift of those who will witness these with us.
** A story offered anonymously to say thank you for all of the support, work and effort to give Peterborough City and County a place for this.