The Tuesday night bereavement group that the kids and I were attending is over. I can't believe it's been 10 weeks already. If you remember we were all in separate age-appropriate groups. We met a lot of great people I think all three of us benefited from it.
It's weird how it works for the kids, and honestly, I don't know specifically how or why it works, but it does work. Every time we left after group the kids were happy, energized and seemed to really enjoy themselves. I think that it was just good for them to see and hear the stories of other children who had lost a parent, to know that they are not alone. They did not sit around and talk and cry (like the adults often do), everything was very project oriented and allowed the kids to express themselves as much or as little as they wanted to each week. Everything in each group is confidential, the facilitators can not/do not tell what your child talked about. Because of that, I don't have any big revelations in terms of what they talked about in the loss of their father. All I know is that the whole experience seemed positive for them and I do believe that they got something good out of going.
I was so happily surprised to see Luke equally as content going to group as Alyssa. I worried a little at the beginning because he hates crafty type stuff and would much prefer to be playing something....a game or a sport or something like that...but he didn't ever complain about it. Alyssa loooooved every moment because she makes crafts and talks all day on any regular day, so to do that with other 4 and 5 year olds with whom she shared a unique connection was great for her. Obviously kids don't have the capacity to sit and talk about their feelings about loss, but it seems that just sitting next to someone "like them" and coloring might tie a strong bond that in some way helps them to heal.
This is also the end of my own personal group "marathon"....and honestly I was ready to be done. In additon to the previous 10 weeks of young widow/widowers, you may remember I was also in another smaller group of widows that lasted 6 weeks. So I've been 4 straight months of working through stuff and I've got to say it is hard work. Lots of times I would dread going but I was usually glad that I went when it was over.
The reason why I call it "hard work" is because it causes me to face stuff each week that maybe I might not be thinking about otherwise. It causes a lot more thoughts throughout the week pertaining to the loss and the accident itself. What it does is really not allow me to sweep it under the rug so to speak and put it away. As much as I want to be done with these dreaded feelings, I do want to deal with them and think them through so that some day (when, I have no idea) they do not feel so painful and so that they do not eventually bubble to the surface and damage my future happiness.
The other reason why I call it "hard work" is because I have sat in several groups now and listened to so many people's losses. This is really, really sad stuff to hear and exhausting sometimes to think about. Disease, suicide, accidents and even murder. All circumstances are different. Everyone is struggling and looking for answers. But really there are none. There are commonalities that hold us all together. The things you cannot explain to people who have not lost a spouse. Somehow through the common bond comes a little bit of comfort. I cannot tell you how I wish I did not qualify for this kind of group, but I am thankful that they exist, and I am humbled by all the brave people who come to share their stories.
I did have one pretty awful experience at a session a few weeks ago. Sometimes things hit you by surprise when you are talking at these things. Topics that you didn't think bothered you anymore are suddenly extremely painful. At one point during this particular meeting we were talking about what was coming up for everyone the following week, which was to include Memorial Day weekend. When I started talking about what I would be doing, which was going to camp in VT, suddenly my eyes began to sting and the tears poured out. I could not stop crying, even after I had stopped talking.
Camp is a difficult subject for me. Last summer almost every trip up there I cried quietly behind my sunglasses with the kids in the back seat. Camp is the last place I saw Joe. The last place I kissed him. The last place I saw him with our children. The last place I slept next to him. It is where we spent so, so many good times before and after we had kids. It's the place where he asked me to marry him. And Memorial Day weekend is the weekend that he did it. I didn't consciously think that it all was still so painful. But I guess based on my reaction at my group I still am grappling with it. When I am at camp I busy my mind with nothingness, just trying to steer clear of anything that could send me over the edge. It's a fine line to mentally navigate. And I know that it bubbles just below the surface for many people there.
I wonder what it is like for my kids that the last time they saw their father was at camp and then they just.....never...saw....him....again. I am so sorry that it happened this way. I am sure when they grow up they will be able to explain to me better about what this was all like for them.
I met some great people in the last 4 months. I think about them all the time. And I pray that there is peace somewhere in their futures.