Thursday, November 26, 2009


I have a love-hate relationship with our bereavement group.

The first group we attended, I could barely speak. I spent the entire group fighting tears. The thought that all of the families in that room with us had lost what we had lost was heart-breaking. It was like a new club. We were no longer in the cancer club, now we were in the "lost a child" club.

But, like the cancer club, membership has it's privileges. Ok, maybe not. But just as the cancer club was not a bad place to be once you got over the fact you had to be there, this club is so valuable. I guess it's better to be in a club than on your own. The club part is your option, not the "lost a child" part.

In the cancer club you shared what to feed your kids when they had chemo, how bad certain meds were, where to park on which days in the hospital lot. In the "lost a child" club, you learn that Halloween is going to be more painful than you expected, how not to kill someone who tells you about their miraculous recovery because they prayed, what to do with the empty Christmas stocking.

This is the love part of the relationship.

I've noticed a pattern. A few days before we have a meeting, my emotional center of gravity shifts. I start to feel it pulling me down. Things that I often take in stride make me very sad. Last week the day of the bereavement group I cried all the way home from work. Our schedule so far has been every other week, but one month we went to 3 weeks in a row. Mr. Smak and I were both VERY down after that. Maybe it's coincidence, it's not like that's the only time it happens, but I'm seeing a pattern. This is the hate part.

Last week we went. The girls love to go, which continues to surprise me. It's a big time commitment for us, a long trip down and back, but they are disappointed when we can't make it. Anyway, last week we hit traffic, arrived quite late, and ended up driving a total of 3.5 hours for a 45 minute meeting. We sort of decided on the way down that we were probably going to quit going soon.

I don't know what word to put on it, but the group changes how I'm feeling. It is comforting, but that's not the word I'm looking for. There is something about taking the trip that we drove so many times with/for Henry that is in a sense honoring him. Invariably I cry, and leave emotionally drained. But there's a sense of relief....still not the right word. Kind of the emotional version of how your body feels after a very intense workout.

Mr. Smak and I were surprised at how good we felt when we left last week. The experience requires us to dedicate several hours to Henry, focus on him, his story, our pain and loss, and know that we are doing it again in a couple of weeks. In that sense it's meditative, or religious, I guess.


Anonymous said...

It's Toni and I was worried my last comments may have been insensitive but you answered them and I appreciate your openness. Whatever our different views are there is a common thread. Love. I love my family and you love yours. I have never lost a child. I am a RN and have never thought bad things only happen to bad people. Your words always bring to mind a certain clarity that I want to reminded of often. We do not know the number of days we have to love those whom we love so do it fervently. Peace to you and your family. Thank you for sharing. It means something to me!

Rach said...

Doc Smak,
Just thought I'd tell you that I've been thinking of you guys over Thanksgiving... and that I hope your holiday was meaningful and comfortable for your whole family...

Cheers from the great white north (canada)

StorytellERdoc said...

I have read your previous three posts and thoroughly enjoyed your poignant perspective. Well done. I will be following. And Peace to you and your family.