When There Are No Words – Charlie Walton

HEALING THE GRIEVING HEART
When There Are No Words
Host: Dr. Gloria Horsley
With guest: Charlie Walton
May 4, 2006

G: Hello. I?m Dr. Gloria Horsley with my co-host Dr. Heidi Horsley. Welcome to Healing the Grieving Heart, a show of hope and renewal for those who have suffered the loss of a sibling or a child. Well, this morning, Heid, as oftentimes we read our emails in the morning but I have some questions that I got at the Compassionate Friends chapter leader training program that I thought might be fun for you and me and our guest to go over today and so I want to give people our toll free number to start with. If they?d like to join our show today, our number is 1-866-472-5792. And please join us with questions or comments regarding the losses in your life. You can also email Heidi or me through our website www.healingthegrievingheart.org. These shows are all archived 24 hours a day, 7 days a week on www.thecompassionatefriends.org website or on our website www.healingthegrievingheart.org. Also, you can download the shows from my website on your Ipod and we also have transcripts. If we?ve got some hearing impaired people, if you let us know what show you would like, we?ll be able to give that to you. Heidi and I also have a quote of the week. We have wonderful quotes from our guests and those are on our website so you want to hit it and take a look at the quotes for the week. We also have some information about the Library of Life on there which is the co-sponsor of the show and we have a Library of Life website for Scott which you might want to look at with some pictures, and for only $50 you can have a Library of Life website on the web for your loved one, you can also do a celebration site forever for just $50. I also want to say, Charlie and Heidi, well, Heidi?s going to introduce our guest, Charlie, but first I have to tell everyone that this is my 46th wedding anniversary today.
H: Wow, Mom, I totally forgot. Oh, my, gosh. I?m sorry. Congratulations!
G: It?s pretty amazing. Forty-six years with the same guy. Anyway. All right. So let?s get on with the show today. Heid, would you like to introduce our guest.
H: Sure. I?d love to. Okay, our topic today is When There Are No Words and our guest today is Charlie Walton. Charlie started out to be a schoolteacher but only spent two years in the classroom before getting sidetracked into an exciting 35-year career as a free-lance writer, providing training materials in video and print for AT&T, BellSouth, Chick-fil-A, Coca-Cola, Days Inns, Delta Air Lines, Disney World, DuPont, Georgia Power, IBM, Kimberly-Clark, Kroger, Texas Instruments, USA Today and many colleges and universities. Charlie has written many books, six of which are under his own name. Two of his books, When There Are No Words and Packing For the Big Trip, resulted from the sudden accidental death of Tim and Don, two of the Walton?s three sons. Rick is his son that is still living. These books have been widely used to help those who are struggling through the grief of a life trauma. Welcome to the show, Charlie.
C: Thanks very much. It?s great to be here.
G: Great to have you from Atlanta. Beautiful area.
C: It really is.
G: So we?re going to get a southern accent with a southern calm, right?
C: Hopefully so.
G: It?s great to have you on the show. Could you tell us for our audience, I think I emailed you the fact that I really look at the show as being for people who are fairly newly bereaved, maybe in the past couple of years, and the message is really that others have been there before you and made it, and we?ve been there, and we know that you can make it, too. Could you tell us in that vein and thought, share a little about the boys and what happened and the circumstances around it for us.
C: Sure, glad to do that. I really didn?t intend to write this book. People said right after the boys died, I guess since you?re a writer, you?ll write this. It?ll probably be cathartic for you and help other people. I said, well, I really think that the tribute I could give these two guys is just not to turn their death into a writing assignment. But after four or five years, Kay and I began to realize that when we would go to try to be encouraging to people who had had losses that the things we were saying out of our experience were actually helping a little bit. And so I began to think, well, maybe I?ll put this in a forum that it can travel a lot farther than I can.
G: Now where were you when you were telling people about it? Were you involved with Compassionate Friends?
C: That?s some. We go to a church that has had an unusually large number of deaths of children, some adult children, but also young children, and as a result of that, that particular church family proved to be a real encouragement in our difficult time. They kind of know how to do that since they?ve done it more than once. So I tried to write a book that would be for the people who were in that first week or month of numbing grief. It?s the conversation I wish that somebody had come and had with me. People gave us a lot of books to read and, of course, it?s strange because in that early time period, you can hardly focus your eyes much less your mind and a lot of those books they gave us, they were sort of syrupy platitudes about God needing another little angel and that kind of stuff. On the other extreme, they were very text-booky about the stages of grief and all of that. It seemed to me that a lot of those books would say what has happened to you is terrible but it?s going to be all right. And I didn?t want to hear that at that point.
G: You wanted to survive.
C: Yes, I just wanted to survive it, so I tried to write the book that says what?s happened to you is terrible and not get into the it?s going to be all right part because that does happen. It does get all right. You do survive it and you do live again, but in those earliest days, you just don?t want to hear that ?everything?s going to be all right? stuff.
G: Absolutely. Well, tell us about the boys. Now you have three boys. Was Rick home?
C: Rick was engaged and living in his own apartment nearby.
G: They?re all three years apart, right?
C: He was probably 24, Tim was 22, and Don was 19. Tim seemed to be making a career out of changing colleges and he was at that point living at home and doing some part time jobs and saying he was headed back to college. Don had just graduated from high school and had gone with some friends of ours, medical missionaries, down to Honduras. He?d been working down there, been to language school, and then was home for sort of a Christmas furlough, and that?s when the two of them died, along with Brian, who was the son of some of our long-time friends from college. That really complicated. It?s hard to lose your kids, but it?s multiplied when. He was Don?s 17-year friend. They had met when they were two years old and been friends for 17 years so they were all three in the car together. Not an unfamiliar scenario. They were in an old car with a bad muffler on a cold winter night and that carbon monoxide takes, they now tell me, it takes about 14 or 15 minutes. It takes your life.
G: Wow. So they were parked somewhere.
C: Yes. They were parked, listening to their favorite music, and Tim and Don, the tests showed later, were taking whiffs of freeon, dust off kind of thing that you use to get the dust off your computer screen, which is not very much of a high, but it?s legal and it?s cheap. But they took a whiff of that and settled back in their seats to listen to their music. They had stopped here at the house not long before that to get aspirin for Brian because he had a headache. He was Mr. Clean and never even tried stuff like that so he was in the back seat probably laid his head back to get over that headache. It was probably 1:00 or 2:00 o?clock in the morning and a county police making his rounds saw this car parked and thought these boys had evidently gone to sleep which I suppose is what happened.
G: What a shocker. Wow. Incredible.
C: It?s the same shock. It?s interesting to me that no matter how a child dies, there is the shock. Kay and I have had lots of people tell us, people who have lost children to lengthy illnesses will say I just don?t think I could?ve handled that sudden shock and our response is usually, we?re not sure we could have handled the marathon of cancer treatments or the things that other people go through. So no matter how it occurs, that shock is inevitable.
G: It?s incredible. Well, when Scott was killed, his cousin was driving and the car blew up and they burned to death, so we had the situation that you had, too, where we had a person in the car that was not actually in our house in our bed. Do you know what I mean? For you to have two empty bedrooms.
H: That?s what we were really struck by. We were struck with the whole story. Losing kids is always hard, but to lose two children at the same time.
C: People also say that it must be, they?re sort of fumbling around to figure out. They say, that must be twice as bad. Well, it?s not. The loss is however big you can experience.
G: You can only take in so much.
C: I know a lady who lost four of her sons on a fishing boat and that loss is the same size as the person who has lost one.
G: My experience, I happen to have a nursing background, too, is that even with terminal illness, people really always have hope, and the moment when they say, I?m sorry, your child is gone, is a shocker.
H: You can?t believe it. You think they?re going to live.
G: And you?ve also spent your life taking care of them and that kind of thing. It?s always difficult. Well, it?s time for us to go to break right now and I want to please give our toll free number if anyone would like to call in, 1-866-472-5792, with questions or comments regarding the losses in your life. You can email Heidi or me through our website, www.healingthegrievingheart.org, and remember these shows are archived. Today our guest on the show is Charlie Walton.
When we went to break, we were talking about how the boys died and in case someone just tuned in, Tim, Don, and their friend Brian were killed by carbon monoxide poisoning when they were kicking back listening to their music in their car on a cold winter night and I was saying we had invited Rick to be on the show and Charlie had asked him if he wanted to come on the show because we like to get that sibling voice, but for his own reasons, he decided he couldn?t be on the show, so we?re asking Heidi to represent the sibling contingent today.
H: Right and I was sorry Rick couldn?t come even though I completely understand as a sibling not wanting to come on and I guess one of the questions I have is I am the oldest as well. I have brown eyes as well so I was identifying with Rick and I lost my younger brother as well. But Rick lost both his brothers and in one second became an only child. I know he?ll always have his brothers but he won?t have them here on earth and I just can?t imagine that from a sibling perspective and I wondered what that was like for him.
C: Well, as you know, from being the sibling, they are the great overlooked group. The people come to the house, they knock on the front door, the son or daughter opens the door and the people say how?s your mom and dad? They don?t say how are you? The sibling is often the invisible one. Rick did a great job of dealing with it. He had a really tough year that year. He broke up with his fianc?, lost his job, and broke his arm in two places.
H: Which I was saying on break, breaking it in two places I think is pretty symbolic.
C: Well, I?m sure that?s true.
H: Given that he?s lost both of his brothers.
C: He also partly as a result of that decided to go to college. He had gotten out of high school and said I don?t want to see the inside of any more classrooms, but he decided to go back to college and he majored in fine art photography which turned out to be just a perfect therapy kind of study. Some of the projects he did utilized old family pictures and slides we had taken through the years and just were
G: Oh, how lovely. What a wonderful remembrance.
C: He did some beautiful work and some writing to go with those pictures. He did several panels where he showed Tim and he showed Don and talked about their characteristics, but at the end of it, he used the words ?I am confident of our reunion.? And I thought, wow, what neat words. So in the process of a lot of those projects, I think he did some real grief work. And then the other great thing was he met a wonderful girl that he?s now married to and they?re very happy together.
G: I was curious. Was he angry at all after and how did he find out? I?m not a bereaved sibling and Heidi can probably talk to this. Is there some anger that your sibling screwed up and your life?s a little screwed up because this shouldn?t happen to you?
C: I wasn?t aware of it if he was. I know that he had some things to deal with because as you might know, when you have two children, they get along fine. When you have three, then
G: I don?t even think two get along fine.
H: I was just thinking that, Mom.
G: I think there?s a sibling rivalry.
C: Well, we found when we went from two to three, that various twos of them would gang up on the other one.
H: They pair up, well, that?s true.
C: And I think at the time that the boys died that Rick and Don were sort of ganged up on the middle kid as Tim liked to introduce himself so I think Rick had to work through some of that guilt for not being as good a friend with Tim at that time as he might have been, but as I say, a lot of his college work helped him work through that.
H: And I think that?s true. You have relationships with siblings when you fight. When you love someone, you will argue with them and fight with them and it?s normal, and then when they die suddenly sometimes you can?t work through these things and then you?ve got unfinished business. What?s interesting about Rick?s story is I have some similarities in my own story. I also was not in college when my brother died. I was 20 at the time, and his death caused me to really examine my life and kind of put me in an existential place and say okay, what do I want to do with my life? Life ends and I need to make the most of the time I?m on this earth and from there and from this journey, I decided to go back to college and make something of my life. It puts you in a different place. You grow up quickly when you have a sibling die.
C: I tell people that one of the unrecognized gifts that a person who leaves you who dies gives to you is sort of a sudden correct perspective on life. You suddenly get real clear on what?s permanent, what?s temporary, and what your values are in life. I?ve heard many a grieving person say that they never leave their spouse or their kids now without saying I love you. They don?t want that occasion to arise when they miss that chance.
G: People talk on the show about there was then and then there?s now. Heidi, as a sibling, I wonder if you could talk to Charlie about how you felt like you had to take care of your parents.
H: Absolutely. In fact, I was thinking of that, Mom, when Charlie was saying that everyone that came to the door was there for the parents. When you do get messages oftentimes the message is you need to be strong for your parents. Rick was now an only child. I?m the oldest. All siblings get these messages but I got them loud and clear. I really did take on that role. I hid a lot of my feelings from my parents because I knew they had already been through so much and I grieved pretty much on my own, and I didn?t show them what I was going through because they had been through so much pain and suffering already and I did a lot of things I probably wouldn?t have done if my sibling hadn?t died. I remember after Scott died, it was important for me to tell people and I found one of his phone books and I went and called everybody I could imagine to tell them he had died. I didn?t want my parents to have to do that. I would do these things not even telling them to try to take care of them in a way and help them through this grief. I think that?s definitely one of the roles we take and we do get messages, like I said, from some people.
C: You know I got permission one time to sit in on a siblings? group at a Compassionate Friends meeting, and they normally don?t let adults in there except as group leader.
H: I know because I run those, Charlie, and I definitely have a sign up that says ?Parents Are Not Allowed.? My father tried to sit in on one of mine. I said, ?Dad, goodbye.?
C: I was working on this book and I got permission to sit in and I was overwhelmed by there?s a whole different language and communication style that occurs with the siblings. I guess I would characterize it by saying that there is a lot less concern about calling things like they are. The adult groups, people are often very careful about how they describe things and say things and they don?t want to offend people and they do all those games that adults play, but those siblings just laid it on the line with each other about their sibs and if they weren?t happy with that sibling at the time they died, they just said so. I thought it was an extremely healthy kind of exchange.
H: I agree with you. Just to be honest and up front and truthful about what your experience has been.
C: Yeah, and in fact, when I sit and think about what helps people most to get through any kind of grief, I think the word you just used, honesty, is the thing. People get stuck in grief because they?re so concerned about what other people might be thinking that they ought to be doing at a certain time. Probably the most valuable thing I did in that book was to try to communicate to folks that the way you are grieving is the way you need to grieve. You are the world?s expert on how you need to grieve. Quit thinking that people must be thinking right about now that you ought to be doing such and such.
G: And you?re not going crazy. You may be crazy but you?re not going crazy.
H: Most of what you?re going through is normal given the situation you?ve been through.
G: Crazy is normal. I was just at this chapter leader training and I met a couple of women from Utah and I went up to one and said I was from Utah originally and she said, well, good for you, and she was very hostile. In most groups I would have said, okay, I would have written her off. So of course I went over and had lunch with her and started talking to her about her daughter?s death and all that kind of thing and she?d been in therapy and the therapist was trying to work with her and it had been two years and the therapist felt she was going to be okay even though she was kind of crazy basically. I said, you?re normal. Go back and tell your therapist I said you?re normal.
C: That?s one of the best things that happens in those Compassionate Friends meetings and those sharing groups is the new person, the first-timer arrives, sits in that circle and says, ?I think I?m going nuts,? and every head around the circle is nodding yes and then they?re all saying, ?You?re not, but it?s normal to feel like you are and to think that?s what?s happening.?
G: Okay, we?re coming up on another break. When we started the show, I suggested I had gotten some interesting questions from The Compassionate Friends chapter leader training program that I thought we might all kick around a little bit here and I?m going to read one of them and feel free to jump in Heidi or Charlie and the first one they ask is how have you changed or what have you learned in your personal life since your loss?
C: As I mentioned earlier, I think when any person is torn away from your life, the suddenness of that loss gives you sudden appreciation for the fragility of life. You suddenly realize what you?ve known all along that the death rate on your street is 100%, it?s just a matter of when. And so you start changing things. We had kind of learned that lesson earlier because I had a couple of friends who died young. Way back there when there were five of us in the family, one year we scraped together the savings and took all five of us to Europe and sort of bummed around for five weeks and wrote a book called Europe Without Reservations.
H: That?s fun.
C: It was a great trip but we had all kinds of questions when we did that. Maybe we should wait until later. Maybe the kids are not old enough to appreciate this. But we went ahead and did that and, of course, later on, that cast of characters could not be reassembled. So one of the things I do when I talk to groups is talk about this ? making sure you don?t live with unfinished business. I like the saying, eat the dessert first, life is short.
G: I like that. I think maybe that?s one of the biggest things we learn, isn?t it? Eat the dessert first. And we give ourselves permission to do it and I hope everybody out there is doing that.
C: Sure. That?s really the focus of that second book, Packing for the Big Trip. And it?s the book I wish everybody could read before they have some sort of grief enter their life.
G: By the way, I love the title of that, Packing for the Big Trip, and the big trip I assume is death because I have not read that one.
C: It?s an analogy to the fact that one of my favorite times in life is when you?re getting ready to go on a long trip and you?ve canceled the newspaper. You?ve gotten everything taken care of. You?ve paid all the bills. You go to the airport and you?re there and everything is ready. I think that?s the goal that we all ought to strive for in our daily life so that we are packed for the big trip. We?ve got stuff done. We don?t have a relative that we still need to reconcile with.
G: And that gets into holding onto that anger and not reconciling a past loss because it?s hard to live now but we?ve got these people in their first and second year. Let me say one thing to all of you out there. We all know, all of us on the phone right now know that you might not have the energy to resolve a lot of things that you will later on, wouldn?t you say, Charlie?
C: That?s right.
G: And we?re giving you some of our advice and some of our thoughts are for later on and some of them are for now and we know for some you are just trying to survive it. We remember those days. Those 45-minute showers. Not being able to get your shoes on. What did you worry about? Do you remember what you worried about? I know you said you worried about what other people thought? What did you worry about in those first two years? Do you remember, Heidi, as a sibling?
H: I worried about the fact that someone else in the family was going to die. Every time the phone rang, especially in the middle of the night because that?s when I found out my brother and my cousin had been killed, I automatically assumed somebody has died and that?s why they?re calling.
C: That?s right. I had that same experience. One of the worst times I ever had was the first time Kay was late getting home and I just sat there living through my life without her. And all that had happened was she just forgot to call. She was going to do something else and didn?t get around to calling. By the time she walked in, I was just a basket case.
G: It?s amazing where your mind can take you, isn?t it?
C: Prior to a life trauma like that, you assume that all this stuff you hear on the news happens to other people and when it does happen to you, then you figure it?s going to happen to you time after time, so like Heidi says, every time the phone rings, it scares you pretty bad.
G: What do you remember then? What did you feel angry about? Do you remember, Heid, do you want to take that one?
H: Angry? Oh, I was really angry. I was really angry that my brother had abandoned me. I was angry that my life was not supposed to be like this. Like Charlie said, this happens to other people. I was angry at God because I felt like if God was the merciful person that he is, he wouldn?t have allowed two healthy young boys to die suddenly. I was just angry at the way my life was. I was mad as hell at living with two bereaved parents, to be honest with you. I was angry. I was angry at everything, and I had to get a hold of that anger. I had to let go of it gradually. Initially, I was not able to.
C: I think being mad at God is a bigger factor than gets talked about very often. There?s a chapter in When There Are No Words about that because Kay and I had very different experiences there. I didn?t feel like God had caused this or even allowed it to happen. I just felt like those boys broke the law of carbon monoxide and if you do that, you?re going to do die. But Kay, on the other hand, had not realized until this happened that she like a lot of us had made the assumption that if you?re trying to be as good as you can and do what God says and all that, you ought to be getting a little special protection, a little extra treatment. So she had to work through that a little bit and I think that has been helpful to us in talking to other people in years since because depending on the size of the God influence in your life, that?s about how big also is going to be the anger with God. If he?s been a major player in your philosophy and your thinking, then you?re going to have to deal with the fact that he either causes this to happen, lets it happen, or has some reason for it to happen and that?s a deep well.
G: I remember what I was angry at. I was working at the time at the University of Rochester and I was actually a therapist in practice and I was really angry that people wouldn?t let me be competent. They wouldn?t leave me alone. I was trying to be competent that people were trying to talk to me and be supportive. It made me feel unsupported because I felt like I wanted to cry at work. I just got so angry with the whole situation. It was frustrating trying to be competent when I really wasn’t.
H: You were trying to keep it all together but they kept bringing back ?how are you really doing?? questions.
G: But, of course, then I wanted them to because you want people to talk about it.
H: Right, I know. It?s a fine line, I know.
C: Well, I found that when I would go into business meetings at different organizations that people were trying to coddle me and that wasn?t working. They were being so careful they were afraid that at any moment I was going to shatter into a thousand pieces. I found that the best way to deal with that when in a conference room and we?re all talking. Both my kids who died and the one who?s still living were real comedians and had a lot of funny sayings and all.
G: Yeah, you said Tim was a real comedian, right?
C: They all were. But I would pretty quickly think of some of their quotes that would apply and I?d say, well, as Don used to tell me, such and such and such, and that would break the ice for everybody and they?d say, ?Wow, he mentioned the name of the kid that died and he didn?t fall apart. Looks like we can go on with this meeting here.? That was a helpful way of dealing with that.
G: You were away at college, Heidi. What did you find?
H: Well one thing I was most angry at which I didn?t even think about until you both started talking is how unacknowledged I felt and how misunderstood sibling loss is and how I felt like no one understood what I was going through because no one I knew had ever had a sibling die so I felt very much alone and very unacknowledged and overlooked. I guess that was probably the thing that made me the angriest and being away made it that much worse because nobody knew Scott where I was in college. Nobody knew him and so nobody understood why I was still grieving after several weeks and why I wasn?t over it. They didn?t understand sibling loss.
C: Very true.
G: Heidi and I work with siblings and one of the things we find is that they want people to talk about it but they don?t want them to. There?s a huge ambivalence and maybe it?s with all of us. There?s a huge ambivalence. We want to be supportive but we want to be seen as competent. As Heidi said, it?s a fine line.
C: We?ve talked about my family. I want to know the story on your husband and how he dealt with grief. I know guys just seem to have a harder time than the women and the moms. You?ve probably done programs on this but I haven?t heard them.
G: We haven?t talk about dad too much, have we Heid?
H: No, we talked about men in grief and I think a lot of it did definitely apply to him.
G: Well, when we were talking about mad, I will tell you I think my husband was very angry with me and very angry with my cousin because Scott and I had gone to Washington, DC, for spring break and my cousin had a lot of issues in her life because her daughter had Hodgkinson?s disease and she was separated. She and I were very close. We grew up together and her son was driving the car when Scott was killed and we all grew up in the same small town so he knew my cousin also and he had a lot of issues around my going to Washington and her son driving the car and he was angry with her and that wasn?t okay with me because we grew up together so we had a lot of issues around that, wouldn?t you say, Heid? Were you aware of that?
H: Yes, I do. That?s exactly how I would have described his feelings were anger. I think it was easier for him to be angry than to get in touch with what was underneath the anger which is intense sadness, and I think my father also, he was very angry at Matthew for driving because I think he wanted to believe as we all do that this could have somehow been prevented and controlled. Maybe if my brother had been driving, it would have never happened. And they were not being reckless. Sometimes we just have freak accidents in life and people die and things happen.
G: Yeah, the car just hydroplaned and they had the blood tests and all that and they had no drugs or alcohol on board. In fact, that was very difficult for the police department when they told us that. We went down and went to the accident site, my husband and I, with the police and talked to them about the whole situation. I don?t even think they were speeding. It was just a really rainy night and apparently, I don?t know what happened, he went to turn off and had an old car like a lot of people. Of course, my husband is like Scott shouldn?t have been riding with somebody who had a car in that kind of shape. You want to blame something.
H: Right, because you just can?t believe that it happened and how could it have been prevented? Hindsight is 20/20. We all want to go back and say this should have, would have, could have. I remember reading in your book, Charlie, about the muffler. How you felt like you should have fixed it?
C: I was just going to ask about guilt. What I have found in talking to people through the years is that I think the chapter in When There Are No Words is called ?Inevitable Guilt? because I have not yet met a person who has lost somebody who hasn?t dealt with guilt. My best explanation of that is you really want to hurt somebody and you?re the most convenient person around so you start in with, ?If I hadn?t let them leave when they did,? or in my case, ?If I had only fixed that muffler on that car.? Of course Tim was 22 years old and he and I had talked about that thing. I said, ?You?ve got to get it fixed.? He said, ?I?m going to do it as soon as I get a check from my job.? I guess if I were parenting in that situation again, I?d do the same thing. This kid needed to fix his own muffler.
G: I loved in the book that you said if I had it to do over again, I probably would have done the same thing.
H: Absolutely.
G: I think one of the things our audience has to remember is we did the best we could at the time. We did what we thought was right. We did the best we could. There are other life circumstances. Sometimes our eye isn?t focused on a certain thing. I saw James Baker was on Larry King last night and my husband and I were listening to it. His grandson was killed drowned in a hot tub and he was bringing a lawsuit which I have no thoughts about that. What I did have a thought about was somebody called in. A woman called in and actually said, ?What about parental responsibility here? And why wasn?t there a gate around that hot tub?? Well, I think part of what guilt is is wanting to think that we can control the world and how could it have been different? How could I have been in control of that? And you know what, we just can?t control everything. Life happens.
H: You can?t always be at your children?s side 24 hours a day. Siblings have survival guilt too. I want to speak to this. It?s different though. What we?re guilty about, in my case, I was guilty that I lived and the only boy in our family died. It?s survivor guilt. Maybe the wrong child died. You feel it should have been you or you feel like it should have been one of your siblings. Survivor guilt often goes to your head.
G: Or maybe you should have been with him, too.
H: Well, that?s true. We should have been with him. We could have prevented it somehow if we had been there.
G: Well, listen, Charlie, it has been so great to have you on the show today.
H: It has Charlie, thank you.
C: It?s been a pleasure.
G: It?s been really wonderful and I asked you if you would read something to close the show. Did you get that?
C: I did.
G: Oh, good, would you read this? This is from Charlie?s book, When There Are No Words.
C: Now when I go to comfort a friend having had the experience of being a bereaved one, I know there are no words. Actually no words are necessary. Everything that needs to be said is communicated in the present. The look, the touch, and the shared final. If I am sorry, they are going to know it. If I?m something greater than sorry, something for which our language has no terminology, the message will be clearly communicated. The only thing I know to say is that I don?t know what to say and that goes without saying. In the weeks and months that follow, there will be time for words. But at the moment of separation, there really are no words.
G: Oh, thank you, Charlie. That was such a beautiful ending to the show.
H: It is. Thank you very much.
G: And thank you so much for being on.
C: Thank you.
G: Time to close our show. Please stay tuned again next week when our topic will be Parents With No Surviving Children. Our guest will be Rick Yotti, trustee of The Compassionate Friends Foundation and President of the TCF Board of Directors. Rick and his wife, Cindy, lost their only two children, Christopher and Matthew, in 1983 and 1984 from a neuromuscular disease. Rick will discuss how he and Cindy have coped, survived, and even thrived after their tragic losses.

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