66. Other People

66. Other People

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Find Your Inner Strength

Other People

Hope is the physician of each misery.

~Irish Proverb

We became those “other people” the night we received the knock on our door. You know, the people who bad things happen to, the ones who receive devastating news in the middle of the night. That kind of thing wasn’t supposed to happen to us. Losing a child, that unimaginable heartache, only happened to “other people.”

Our daughter Kyley was sixteen when she died in a car accident down the road from our home. She was on her way home from work. She was so close. It almost made it worse knowing she was just down the street, as if being in that close proximity to her home, to her family, should have somehow protected her.

The first week, as we planned for her services and received visitors to our home, I was conscious of the fact that I felt very little emotion at all. It was as if I were playing a part in a movie. I dutifully went through the motions while impatiently waiting for this awful scene to be finished. I realize now I was in shock and I remember the exact moment that shield of protection crumbled. The pain and despair washed over me and I became inconsolable.

My mom was at my home visiting one day. “Why don’t you go talk to someone, Melissa? Like a counselor.”

I was surprised by the flash of anger I felt. I had always prided myself on being able to fix whatever problem came my way. The only acceptable resolution to my grief was to have my child back. I couldn’t make that happen. Certainly no counselor was going to make that happen. My response was a resounding, “Absolutely not!”

I suppose that’s where a lot of people would have tiptoed back from the angry, grieving mother, as to not upset her any further. Not my mom. She was persistent and I finally gave in.

I may have had a little bit of an attitude in the therapist’s office that first day. I sat with my arms crossed, barely making eye contact as I informed her that unless she could bring back Kyley, we were both wasting our time.

She was surprisingly tender when she responded. “You’re right. I can’t bring back your daughter. My job is to help you move forward without her.”

Up until that point the thought of “moving forward” had never occurred to me. I didn’t want to move forward without Ky! Everything I knew of Kyley, everything I remembered about her, was prior to that day in December when she left us. If I picked up and lived life, wouldn’t I be moving further away from my child? How could I possibly do that?

My friends and family appealed to my spiritual side. Kyley now resided in my future, where she was waiting for me in Heaven. Every day I lived was a day closer to being reunited with her.

I looked at my eleven-year-old-son and my husband. I was only thirty-five years old. I had many years ahead of me and I knew I didn’t want to spend them consumed by heartache and bitterness. I was in such pain and I didn’t know how to make it go away. I couldn’t see an end to the hurt, but maybe that therapist lady could.

She didn’t let on whether she was surprised to see me at that second visit. She just steered our session with the exact confidence and compassion I needed her to show. I left her office that day with a list of a few additional resources. She encouraged me to seek out services for my family.

The Children’s Bereavement Center of South Texas was on that list and I called to schedule an intake appointment. We interviewed with them as a family and were informed of the services they felt might benefit us. The center was designed to help children process their grief and give them a safe place to express their feelings among other children their age who had experienced a similar loss. It was a beautiful facility and the staff was wonderful.

We arrived back at the Center on our assigned group night. The center director had let us know what to expect: we would eat dinner with the other families and then the adults would separate from the children into their own support group headed by a trained grief facilitator.

All of the children at the facility that evening, my son included, had lost a sibling. Our group was comprised of other parents who had also lost a child. We didn’t know any other families at the time who’d experienced the same type of loss as us. I didn’t know quite how to feel looking into those other parents’ faces and seeing the same hopelessness I felt.

My heart had been softened towards this type of therapeutic process by my experience with my own therapist and I tried to keep an open mind. I participated in the group, sharing my feelings with the other parents. It was reassuring to hear that some of the feelings I was experiencing were normal, and nothing to feel guilty about. It was healing.

It’s been nearly five years since my family and I first visited the Bereavement Center and since I sat in my therapist’s office with my arms crossed, practically daring her to try and help me. We are no longer clients at the Center but I recently visited and spoke with its director. There was something I wanted her to know.

When I first visited the Center, I was in so much pain that I could not see outside my own heartache. I knew I would never feel joy again and I even doubted that life could feel normal after such a tragedy. I did not dare hope for something I could not see as a possibility. That’s the wonderful thing about hope: its existence is not dependent on one’s ability to see it or feel it. Those special people at the Center knew it was not lost. They gently ushered me towards it as I healed, until I could finally see it for myself. They did that for me.

My “therapist lady” and the staff of the Bereavement Center celebrated when I, a self-professed reluctant client, walked into their offices and proclaimed, “Thank you, but I don’t need you anymore.”

I’m living my best, most joyful life. And yes, life feels normal again. Hope is never truly lost. Sometimes we just need a little help seeing it.

~Melissa Wootan

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