Surviving the deaths of children

first_imgSANTA CLARITA – They never would have chosen to become members of the exclusive group, but they are lifers and draw strength from each other’s company. The group is made up of parents and siblings of children who have died. The deaths propel them into a fourth dimension of pain and loss, and through some spiritual alchemy – and lots of talking and listening – they help each other heal. “Each time you talk about it, it seems to get easier,” Rita Fleischer said. “People sharing the same kind of pain you are in is what makes the camaraderie so special.” The causes of death are many: collisions, murder, medical malpractice, suicide. Parents of another boy find comfort in their son’s re-recorded cell-phone voice message, which they play for his cocker spaniel, Micky. “His tail wags after two years. He still knows his voice,” said Teddy Bell’s dad, Ted, about Micky. On a memorial Web site, friends send Teddy messages in heaven. Speakers often reach for tissues from boxes scattered on the floor. Group leader Diane Briones has lived through the death of her mother and brother, but her daughter Michelle’s death causes powerful aftershocks eight years later. “You can kind of move on with your life without intense pain grabbing you all the time. You still miss the person, but the pain is not as intense with a mother, a brother,” she said. “With Michelle, I still have horrible grief periods and will probably (have them) for the rest of my life.” An Antelope Valley man whose son was murdered in 1991 said he questioned how life anywhere could go on. “I found it hard to see how the sun could come up the next morning,” he said, asking that his name not be used. A parent in another support group, who had lived through 10 years of sunrises, gave him hope. Some people are so consumed by hate and anger that they want everyone to feel their pain, which they “wield like a machete or club,” the man said. They may end up intimidating others into avoiding them. Some siblings of deceased children are facing the double whammy of grieving for a brother or a sister and feeling neglected emotionally by parents mired in grief. While deceased children’s friends and co-workers, as well as the parents’ own friends, often rally around before and for several years after the funeral, they may eventually decide life should go back to “normal.” They mention the deceased child less and less, if at all. “You need support on the anniversary date – a tap on the shoulder, an ‘I know what today is’ or ‘I know what tomorrow is; I’m thinking about you,”‘ Alice Renolds said. For parents who lost a child but still have at least one other child, some mistakenly try to console them with that reminder. “I would react: ‘I don’t care if I have a million children; I lost my precious baby.’ ” A son and his wife have made her a grandmother. Briones reaches out to people who have lost an only child. “They (may) feel like they’re not a parent anymore, but they are,” she said. And of her friends the Renoldses, who have lost two children, She says the “pain is intensified all that much more. … It’s unthinkable.” Survivors say memories can surge in waves. “In the very beginning, tidal waves hit daily, sometimes hourly,” Briones said. “Further along in grief, after the first year, they hit on a regular basis but not hourly – maybe once or twice during the day.” Holidays, birthdays or movies may trigger the seismic onset. Grieving is not a tidy process, and couples may discover their styles clash. Some people distract themselves, overscheduling activities, reading only fiction or avoiding the deceased child’s belongings, while others deal with the loss head-on, quickly joining support groups and reading self-help books. The key, they say, is accepting differences. Recently Briones has received many calls from parents whose children have committed suicide. Some parents may feel stigmatized if a child has died this way, and they may hide their emotions or how the child died. “They’re afraid to say it,” she said of some parents. “There truly isn’t a stigma. It does not matter how our child died. We lost a child – that’s all that matters. Not how they died.” In addition to speaking frankly about her son’s death, Fleischer ponders the “what if” thoughts. She believes a Canadian regimen could have helped Erik if he and his parents had learned about it sooner. Traditional drugs and other therapy failed the young man, who shared his desperation with his parents. “He felt like he was losing his mind,” Fleischer said softly. Judy O’Rourke, (661) 257-5255 [email protected] SUPPORT GROUP The Compassionate Friends meet at 7 p.m. the first and third Thursday of the month at Fellowship Christian Church, 26889 Bouquet Canyon Road, behind the Goodwill store. Siblings as well as parents of deceased children are welcome. Information: Diane Briones at (661) 252-4654, or 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MORECasino Insider: Here’s a look at San Manuel’s new high limit rooms, Asian restaurant Fleischer’s son Erik, who for 17 years was a typical kid, stepped into mental quicksand when schizophrenia gripped his mind. At 25, he took his life. He is gone, and his family needs a place to tend the great love for him that remains. Members of The Compassionate Friends listen but do not judge. In exchange for exposing raw feelings, tenderness that defies words, confusion, anger, shock and acceptance, the members get reassurance and confidentiality. Hundreds of people have participated in the annual candlelight walk organized by Alice and Tim Renolds, held in memory of their sons Tim and Danny, who were killed in a car crash six years ago Friday. On the first and third Thursday of each month, a small group sits in a circle with Alice and Tom when they let their guard down and ride tidal waves of memory, stand as beacons of survival to newcomers and, sometimes, defuse the pain with humor. Friends may wonder if it is safe to talk about the boys with Alice Renolds. They may dimly wonder how she can still be the boys’ mother when they are not here to be mothered. Looking deep into her clear blue eyes, the answer is plain. “Even if I cry when you talk about my kids, it’s OK; I’m talking about my kids,” she said. “You want to talk about them. All I have now are memories.” The tears are not barriers that warn “keep out.” last_img

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