Each of the cards, notes, and e-mails that arrived following Joseph’s death was cherished, but a few touched us deep down where our souls bled. Those came from complete strangers, fellow grieving parents.
We quickly learned that we are all members of a secret society because unlike the rest of the world, each of us has buried the most precious part of ourselves. We are Grieving Parents, the Club Nobody Wants to Join. And our organization hates to welcome new members because we want no one else to know this searing pain.
There are no barriers in our club. Race, religion, the level of education, and financial status do not matter. We’re all living the most unthinkable nightmare.
Our new friends assured us it was indeed normal for us to weave in and out of the stages of grief, and that God could handle each raw ugly emotion. They assured us that we weren’t losing our minds. And they held us no matter what we said or how ugly it spewed out of our mouths.
Since Joseph’s death, we have met hundreds of parents who have buried children. Some have horrific stories: children who were murdered, children who committed suicide, and circumstances that now involve costly lawsuits and families ripped apart. A few have lost multiple children.
Despite differing circumstances, there is a common thread that weaves us together. We’ve each lost a child, and every cell in our body would do anything to hold him again.
A few of the parents we met were bitter, believing God did this to them. For the sake of our sanity, we found it imperative to avoid bitter people while deep in the throes grief.
We asked our kindred spirits questions no one else could understand or answer: How do we survive our son’s birthday? What do we do on the anniversary of his death? How do we get through Mothers Day / Fathers Day? What do we do with our son’s room and belongings? How do we make people understand that we’re still the parents of three sons? Will we ever stop wanting to die?
Phil and I attended The Compassionate Friends and GriefShare, wonderful support groups. Although heart-wrenching, it was cathartic to meet with others walking this unwanted journey. We found healing in sharing our stories and bearing one another’s burdens. Each of us was fragile and vulnerable, yet somehow strengthened by our connections to one another. We remain permanently bonded.
Are you new to the Club Nobody Wants to Join? If so, please know that you are not alone. Know that we are many who pray for you regularly. Know that God sits with you, suffers with you, and will sustain you. Hang on tight.
(an excerpt from Grief: A Mama’s Unwanted Journey by Shelley Ramsey)