A few weeks after my son, Lance, was killed, my wife Kathy, received some information about the Compassionate Friends; she wanted to go to a meeting. She told me it was a support group for bereaved parents.

My reaction was I didn’t need a support group. All my life, I was the one person that people turned to in crisis. I was the cool head under fire. I was the fixer. I surely didn’t need a support group, but Kathy was in no shape to drive herself so I went with her.  I went into this sharing group and when it came time for me to talk, I cried. I could barely get out Lance’s name.

I left the meeting knowing that I wouldn’t put myself through this again.  Next month comes, Kathy’s still not able to drive herself, so we’re back to the group together. Again, I cry so hard that I can get out only the bare essentials of Lance’s accident.

At this point, I’m convinced that I’m going crazy. I have all of these weird thoughts. I think I’m having a bad dream and will wake up and everything will be okay. I think I am a failure as a father because I couldn’t protect my children. Every kid on a motorcycle or street corner looks like Lance, but it isn’t. My wife is a wreck and I can’t make her better. I am angry at the truck driver who killed Lance, at God for letting it happen, even at Lance for not going a little faster or a little slower and avoiding the accident. I’m guilty because I bought the boys their first dirt bike and Lance’s first street bike and I let him buy the sport bike that he got killed on.

And now I’m weeping in front of strangers.  Someone had told me you need to go to three meetings before you decide if a support group will help.

So here I am in my third and last meeting. I’m in a group with another father, John Dubose, whose daughter was killed in a bus accident a year before Lance died.  John starts to talk about how he thought he was going crazy in those first few months after Autumn died. He relates how he thought it was a bad dream from which he would awaken. He talks about his guilt at letting her go to Oxford in England for the summer and not being able to protect her. He talks about driving to work and seeing Autumn on the corner and actually turning around only to discover it isn’t her.

It’s like he’s inside my head because he’s saying exactly what I’m feeling. All of a sudden I’m relaxed and when it’s my turn to talk there are still tears but I can talk about what I’m feeling. For the very first time I don’t feel alone.  I remember thinking I still may be going crazy but at least I’m not going alone.

I believe the lesson here is find someone with whom you feel comfortable sharing your most intimate thoughts and feelings. It may be a support group like Compassionate Friends. It may be a grief specialist or therapist. It may be a member of the clergy or a close friend who is willing and able to help you with this burden. It could be someone who you meet through the Open to Hope web site.

Just knowing you are not the only person having this grief experience, and that what might seem crazy to outsiders is really your new normal, will go a long way to helping you manage your grief process.

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Patrick T. Malone

Patrick T. Malone, a Senior Partner with The PAR Group www.thepargroup.com , has decades of experience in operations, customer service, and sales management. Before joining PAR as a senior consultant in 1989, Patrick worked in a variety of management roles including Vice President - National Sales Manager for American Greetings Corporation and The Scott Companies. As a key member of the PAR team, Patrick has trained and consulted throughout the world with a wide range of organizations including The American Cancer Society, Banfield-The Pet Hospital, Coca-Cola, Delta Air Lines, DuPont, Ft. Dodge Animal Health, Hewlett-Packard, International Securities Exchange, Novell, Sensient Technologies, Siemens Medical, SOLAE, The United Way, and Verizon Wireless. His work with PAR clients has taken him to Canada, Mexico, United Kingdom, Spain, Malaysia, Hong Kong, Brazil, Australia, France and China. A frequent speaker at industry, management and bereavement conferences, he has presented and spoken before the Mississippi VMA and the Delaware VMA; the Frontline Forum at American School of International Management; Argosy University; the business schools at Kennesaw State University and Georgia State University; The American Society of Training and Development; and the Colleges of Veterinary Medicine at Mississippi State University, Iowa State University, Louisiana State University, University of Florida, University of Minnesota, Tufts University, Compassionate Friends national and regional conferences. Patrick is the co-author of the new business book Cracking the Code to Leadership http://thepargroup.com/crackingCode.html Educated at John Carroll University, Patrick is a member of the CEO Action Group of the Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce, Small Business Growth Council, Legislative Committee and the Professional Services Executive Roundtable. He has also served as the National Board President of The Compassionate Friends (TCF), Inc., an international support group for bereaved parents and is a former Trustee of the TCF Foundation. He also serves as President of LMMA Inc. www.looktwicesavealifebumperstickers.com, a not-for-profit 501(c)3 corporation dedicated to motorcycle safety and awareness and is the host of the weekly radio show "This Week in Blairsville" Patrick served on the National Board of Compassionate Friends (TCF) from 1999-2005. He served as treasurer from 2000-2003, and was President of the TCF board from 2003-2005. Patrick and his wife Kathy reside in Atlanta, Georgia and are the parents of Bryan, Lance (1970-1995), Scott (1971), Sean and Erin(1974) and the grandparents of Shannah, Devin, Riley, Katie and Megan. Patrick may be contacted at ptm4936@aol.com Patrick appeared on the radio show Healing the Grieving Heart to discuss Grief in the Workplace. To listen to his interview with Dr. Gloria and Dr. Heidi Horsley, click on the following link: www.voiceamericapd.com/health/010157/horsley062305.mp3

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