13: The Thriving Five

13: The Thriving Five

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Just Us Girls

The Thriving Five

Grief knits two hearts in closer bonds than happiness ever can; and common sufferings are far stronger links than common joys.

~Alphonse De Lamartine

It was 1999 when my world was shattered by a phone call. My son had died in an auto accident. I went through his funeral with the usual numbness and started down the long road of grief and mourning.

At the time, I was becoming familiar with using my husband’s computer. In a desperate state one day I typed in a search for “mothers who are grieving the loss of a child.” That was when I found a lady who had started a group for mothers who had lost children. They wrote to each other daily and helped each other through. Finally, I had found a place where someone would listen whenever I needed to spill my sorrow. They could tell me what was working for them, what wasn’t working, and what to avoid. None of us felt absolutely certain of what we were doing, but we knew we could figure it out together. Talking about our sorrow each day, as we took tiny steps forward, was the most healing therapy I could have found. I was able to share stories about my wonderful son and also learn about their precious children. (And my husband bought me my own computer so he could have his back!)

Thirteen years later, five of us are still together! Some of the women came and went, feeling they no longer needed the help that was offered. Some even found that talking about it daily brought them more sadness; if it didn’t work for them, we let them know that it was okay to pursue another avenue. It is true that some people can easily pour out their hearts in words, and some just find that too difficult.

The five of us who have stayed together are the closest of friends. In fact, we call each other sisters. Over the years, we have honored our children on their birthdays by making donations to hospitals, daycares, libraries, schools, or whatever charity a mom chooses. We still feel the strong connection to our deceased children, almost as if the umbilical chord had never been severed. Most of us have had little “signs” that we believe are from our children, letting us know they are always with us and want us to go on and live happy lives. We have shared pictures of new grandbabies, graduations, weddings, and the successes of our other children over the years. We know so much about each other and have watched children and grandchildren grow up through the pictures that we’ve shared.

Each year the five of us try to get together at one of our homes. Our last reunion was in Cleveland, Ohio, at Joellen’s house. A reunion always starts with hugs, and lots of them! The mom who hosts usually has little trinkets of love for us in gift bags. We never spend gobs of money, but it’s very special to have a candle to light on anniversary days, or a butterfly trinket that reminds us that our children live on.

When we met in Debbie’s hometown in Kentucky, we purchased stuffed animals to take to the firehouse in town. They were given to children to comfort them after fires or other disturbing incidents. In Ohio, we purchased books for the middle school library. We’ve made quilts over the years for children’s hospitals and the Ronald McDonald House in my hometown of Nashville. In Alabama, Suzy also donated quilts to a place that services children who have suffered a loss. We helped Ruth, in Massachusetts, provide a good Christmas for a family that needed help. A daycare facility in Virginia received art supplies, and a family with a child born on Debbie’s son’s birthday received a wagonload of baby gifts! These are just a few of our donations made in memory of our wonderful children.

A reunion where we talk about our children usually involves some crying together. But not all our time is spent with tears in our eyes. Sometimes we shop till we drop at the nearest mall. Laughing together is just as important to us, and we know it fills our children with happiness and delight!

These women that I call my “sisters at heart” are a very important part of my healing journey, and I am so thankful that I met them thirteen years ago. Today, we talk less about our sorrow and loss, and more about how our lives are enriched by our children and grandchildren, and about the things we have learned from our loss that have made us more compassionate and caring people. We all believe that by writing and sharing our children over the years on our computers, and by our reunions when we can arrange them, we have broken down the barriers between the physical and the spiritual and keep our children ever close to us! We have an omnipresent feeling that our kids know we are together supporting each other. We believe that where there is a circle of love, our children are near.

~Beverly F. Walker

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