This weekend Mr. Smak and I attended a parent weekend for parents of kids with cancer or kids who have died of cancer. It was a new event for us.
There is always an element of dread when we are going to our bereavement group. It is often so painful, and the anticipation of emotionally "going there" is tough. The actual group experience I find cathartic, though frequently draining. So I wasn't sure how an entire weekend of grief work would be survivable.
It was a different group altogether, run by a different organization than our sibling/parent bereavement group. I'm not sure why I had the impression that it would be largely bereaved parents, but we were the clear minority. It made me uncomfortable. My husband and I are not what I would have wanted to look at while Henry was in treatment. There is enough possibility of your child's death staring you in the face without a bereaved family adding to it.
However, several members of the group were gracious, and warm, and embracing of me, as I sat blubbering through the first 20 minutes of our icebreaker. And then the blubbering of the next hour. I was quite close to hiding in my hotel room for the weekend...it was difficult to emotionally navigate the different needs of the bereaved parents (grieving, healing) and the treatment parents (anxiety, ongoing medical needs).
Mid-day we had to excuse ourselves to attend the funeral of a friend. Maury died of lung cancer last week, 3 months to the day after her surprising diagnosis. She was very close to and dear to Henry, and embraced our family through his illness and death and the aftermath of our grief. It was hard to say goodbye to Maury, because it meant saying goodbye to another piece of Henry.
We returned then to the ongoing parent weekend, and I had by then apparently cried enough that I was ready to laugh for a little while. Luckily, one of our tablemates had brought along this which loosened everyone up a bit.
It ended up an enjoyable weekend. We made some new friends, and I spent more time thinking about Henry than I usually do, which is good for me. And when we got home, the bright faces and smiles of the girls were warming to my heart.
Not surprisingly, death has been on my mind of late, and the weekend clearly accelerated that. My new musical interest, Mumford and Sons, seems to choose death as their topic of choice. Great band by the way, a funky rock/Celtic/bluegrass mix. And while the music is melancholy, it's not depressing. To me it seems to embrace death as the natural consequence of life. Which of course it is. But most of us (yours truly included) have trouble coping with that.
In these bodies we will live,
in these bodies we will die
Where you invest your love,
you invest your life.