On March 31, 2006 I was enjoying a wonderful evening with my girlfriends from high school. I had traveled to Seattle without my husband or sons to help my brother Rory, his wife Kerry, and my parents celebrate the first birthday of my niece Taylor. I cannot tell you what time my phone rang. I believe it was sometime between 8 and 10pm. I am pretty sure it was my dad on the phone. He was calling to tell me that Rory had died that evening in a car accident. I can still remember like it was yesterday how surreal that evening was. My friends getting me to parents, my parents and I going to the morgue together to identify the body, and then most surreal of all, within days everyone holding it together so that we could celebrate the birthday of my brothers precious little girl.
My niece was a day shy of one when her father left this world so tragically. Today she is 9 1/2 and as you can imagine the light of her mother and my parents life. Because we live on opposite sides of the country Taylor and I have had limited opportunities to develop a relationship until last year when my parents suggested I come to their home in Arizona the same long weekend that Taylor would be there. I went and a tradition was born. I am on the airplane home from our second annual get together.
Many ideas have run through my head as I have tried to formulate what I want to say in sharing this story, but in the end I believe it comes down to the reality of life being that many of us will suffer great and at the time seemingly unbearable loss. My parents lost Rory, they also lost my younger brother Joel before he was 30, leaving me as the only surviving child.
What I see when I look at Kerry and my parents are people who have taken their losses and grown stronger because of them. Why has this occurred? In my opinion it has occurred because they joined communities that offered them the support they needed to get through their pain. You see we are not meant to walk through life alone, we are meant to have companions on our journeys. And sometimes these companions are others who have experienced something similar and can walk with us through the darkest of days until we finally find there is a glimmer of light. The bravest among us are those who know when we are lost and it is time to reach out for help, whether that is due to a death, a divorce, a difficult parenting challenge, experiencing depression, or a myriad of other life occurrences.
For my parents, The National Association of Mental Illness (NAMI) was where they turned. You see my brother Joel was diagnosed as Bipolar but was non-complaint with medication and so his death was due to suicide. NAMI has a wonderful program called Family to Family that offers a program of peer education on mental illness. My parents attended this after Joel’s death and realized that had they better understood his illness earlier in his life there was a possibility things may have turned out different. Based on this premise they became trained as facilitators and for many years helped others better understand their family members with a mental health challenge.
My sister-in-law Kerry found the Healing Center in Seattle and began attending both group and individual therapy soon after Rory’s death. Taylor been attending therapy there as soon as she was old enough and continues to this day. The beauty of this story is that Kerry married Mike 2 years ago. Mike found Safe Crossings, another grief support organization in Seattle for himself and his twin sons after the sudden loss of his wife. So the happy ending to the tragedy is that Kerry and Mike found each other and Taylor now has a father and brothers that are just a year older. It is my strong opinion that my niece is the happy, well-adjusted child she is today because her mother got the help she needed for herself. If you know someone who has needs grief support for a child in Central Florida, we haveNew Hope for Kids, a wonderful organization that provides grief support for children and their parents after a loss. If you are an adult looking for grief support, any of the local Hospice Organizations (Hospice of the Comforter, Vitas, Cornerstone) provide free grief support to the community.
Are you trying to walk a challenging path alone? What is stopping you from reaching out? If you would like some help getting started please visit us at Life Skills Resource Group Orlando. Even if one of our Orlando Mental Health Counselors or Orlando Life Coaches does not provide the service you are seeking, our assistant Sabina will research the community resources and find what is available. It is our goal that everyone who contacts our office will find a solution to their mental health or life coaching challenge. Our phone number is 407-355-7378, or you can email us at firstname.lastname@example.org, you will find a contact from on our website.
As always thank you for taking the time to read my blog and your comments are encouraged.
Peace, Namaste’, Sat Nam,