My palms were sweaty and I could feel my heart beat in my temple. It felt like my shoulders were up to my ears with tension. I kept flicking my finger nails in anxiety. I did not want to walk into this meeting. I did not want to be a part of this community.
This is what it felt like to walk into my first child loss support group meeting. I was overwhelmed. I was scared. It was six months after my 18-month-old son, Bennett, had died. I didn’t want to be there, but felt like my husband and I needed something. We needed to hear that what we were going through was “normal.” As if anything could be normal after losing our baby.
We sat around the table and I shook my leg. I folded my arms. Then I unfolded them. I pushed my hair back. I clenched my hands. I listened to the stories. Some people were 10 plus years into this awful new life. Some cried, others were angry. It was agonizing. I was overwhelmed. My husband and I spoke and the entire time the words were coming out of my mouth, my brain screamed that none of this was possible. This made it all more real.
Then something unexpected happened. There was laughter. And smiles. I wasn’t prepared for that. How could these people feel anything other than pain? How had they progressed to this point? And how do I get there? Please tell me the secret! I would have done anything to feel something besides pain.
I made it through that first support group. And I kept going back. Month after month. Year after year. It’s been five years since my son passed. And I still go. At that first meeting that group gave me a glimpse. I saw that it is possible to be happy again. I saw that my future could be anything that I wanted it to be. Yes, I would still grieve. Yes, I would still miss my son terribly. But I could learn to live with it.
There was hope.
That one tiny word made all things possible. It allowed me to smile, even though I grieved. It allowed me to laugh, even when I was sad. It allowed me love like I never knew possible. It helped me to welcome two rainbow babies into my life.
Related: To the Grieving Women on Mother's Day
Hope saw me through to lead a child loss group for Hope Lives Here, a local grief resource; me, who was so terrified five years ago to even step foot into a support group. We grow by helping others. To be able to sit in a room with other mom’s that are hurting and share our loves and our losses is powerful. It is also healing.
No one should go through grief alone.