People ask me all the time why or how I do what I do. My answer is usually… "I’m not sure, I don’t know how to do construction - so I guess everyone has their thing.” My thing just happens to be related to grief.
I remember coming home from school one day during my junior year of high school. Some family was there and I remember that seemed odd. What I soon found out was that my grandfather had died suddenly. I remember being shocked and that I just wanted to sleep a lot. But when I woke up I then realized it wasn’t a dream. I wanted it to be a dream.
A few days later, it happened to be my junior prom which was also the day of my grandfather’s funeral. I remember my parents saying, “your grandpa would want you to go and have fun. Go in honor of him.” I appreciated them saying that so I went.
It was still confusing to look forward to laughing, dancing and having fun with my friends - did that mean I loved him less? I mean I was just at his funeral this morning. I was confused about having more than one emotion at a time. I now tell this to a lot of parents that for kids all the emotions at once can be very confusing.
I think I needed to hear “You can be sad and really miss your grandpa but you can also have fun with your friends. It is okay and normal to have many emotions - all at the same time.”
I also worked at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia as a Child Life Specialist with children battling cancer. I saw and heard the deepest of pains - hearing a mom cry from receiving bad news to parents asking for help on how to explain to the child or siblings that there is nothing more the doctors can do.
All of that to be said - I have seen a lot of hurt and pain. But yet I view it as the utmost honor to enter into that space with a family. I want to be a source of support for the difficult times - the times when you have to tell a child about a death. I know what language to use - I know how to help them cope with different emotions. I know how to encourage parents that they can have these conversations and cry with their children. If that is one small thing I can do to walk alongside a family that is in a really dark place then that is what I want to do. Their pain is overwhelming and if I can do small things to help equip a family to grieve and to grieve well and to learn how to honor their person’s life - I’d say that is a good way to spend a life.
Death is a part of life and I think we can do better by education, entering in and being there. Can we all admit that grief is a shared experience that we will all face? Let’s be there for one another - listen and to sit next to the person who is grieving. I’m pretty sure that’s all people want - to be heard. Let’s enter in because the truth is we’ll need a person to sit next to us at some point as well.
Thank you for the warm welcome as we have launched A Haven over the last couple months. Your support has made it possible. I’m so grateful.