Today’s post is the fifth of five days of posting about grief following the death of a child.

Thursday's post: Supporting a Grieving Parent

Wednesday’s questions: What has helped you to cope with this loss? What is something that somebody did for you or said to you that has been helpful? 

Tuesday’s question: What would you say to a parent just beginning this grief journey? What would you want them to know?

Monday’s question: Based on your experience of grief, what would you like the general public to understand about the loss of a child?

For too many years I felt like I was full of shards of broken glass.   I begged counselors to make it better, but in the moment it felt like nothing brought relief from the pain.  Looking back their magic was their ability to listen to me over and over and over.

It has been 18 years now since my 18-year-old daughter, Rebecca died from complications following mononucleosis, and that glass has ever so gradually become more like battered sea glass.  Even though the edges have been smoothed the shapes are irregular it can still cause a lot of pain if that glass clumps together the wrong way.  It takes me by surprise now but I have learned coping skills that work for me and the periods of despair are short lived.  I never thought I could come to this place.  It was such a slow process.

Four years after my Rebecca died, I attended a writing workshop for bereaved mothers.  I actually was reluctant to attend because I knew it would be hard and, quite honestly, I did not really want to be associated with “those people,” but then everything was hard, so why not? I still was often close to tears and avoided any deep talk about my daughter.  But with writing I was able to express myself.  And once I had gone through the process of writing with the group, I was often able to share with others by reading what I wrote.

After that first workshop, some of the women suggested meeting again. We have been meeting two weekends a year for 14 years now.  For me, writing and this group of 13 women have been my salvation.  I must admit, I write more when I am with a group and am sort of forced to sit and given a time frame—20 minutes.  I feel it is a more protected environment that when I write when I am home alone—although I have done plenty of that as well. As the years pass, being around other bereaved mothers is a most comfortable place to be.

The following is a poem I wrote with my group.  It is called an acrostic poem, using the letters from the words NEVER AND FOREVER as the first letter of each line of the poem.

NEVER AND FOREVER

Never would I have thought
Everything could change
Virtually in the blink of an eye
Exploding in the midst of my hopes, faith, innocence
Rebecca died.

All of us think this could
Never happen to us
Doesn’t love and nurturing prevail,

Free us from tragedies
Other people suffer and that we
Read about in the newspaper
Empathizing, sympathizing, horrifying?
Verifying--NEVER us, but
Everything changed forever.
Rebecca died.

--Peggy Clover

(Peggy has been a volunteer in our children's bereavement program since 2006, as well as a puppeteer for the Aarvy Aardvark Finds Hope program, a presentation on grief and loss for 3rd grade students in Wake County schools. Her writing has been featured in the book “Farther Along: The Writing Journey of Thirteen Bereaved Mothers.”)