Valentine’s Day has forever been changed in my mind.
No longer will I think of flowers, chocolates and the little hearts that say “I love you.” This year, a 19-year-old boy opened fire at a High school in Florida on Valentine’s Day, killing 17 teenagers. These recent shootings are unfortunately nothing new; in 1999, in Columbine, Colorado, two seniors killed 12 of their fellow students.
One year earlier in 1998, I received a 2 am phone call, a call that no mother wants to receive. My 16-year-old son had been shot by someone he knew. Immediately, I thought to myself: Should I have said no when he asked to go out that night? What could I have done to change things, to prevent this from happening?
When I see a news report such as the two I mentioned, my mind drifts back to that day, when my own world crumbled, and I think: “These parents must be thinking just what I was. ‘How am I ever going to live another day without my child?’”
When I was told about the Compassionate Friends support organization and was invited to attend a meeting, I was a little apprehensive. I parked the car and walked into the church where the meeting was being held. There sat about 15 mothers and
fathers all looking at me as I came in the door.
I’ll be honest, I panicked. I turned around and I walked out. I wasn’t ready to hear other people talking about the loss of their children that would make me cry, and I certainly wasn’t ready to talk about my feelings about losing Jeremy that would make me cry even more.
I did some research: The Compassionate Friend’s organization began in 1962 as a way of helping parents who have lost their children. It began when two women were sitting in a hospital following the death of their sons. They had never met each other prior to that day, but found comfort in sharing about their children. The organization was formed.
At Christmas time following Jeremy’s death, I was invited to a memorial service to honor our children who had passed. I wasn’t sure what I would find by going, but knew suffering alone in silence wasn’t helping me. We began with prayers, then each lit a candle, said our child’s name. Following the service, we had fellowship. I found myself happy that I went and feeling like
Jeremy was smiling down at me.
During the fellowship portion of the evening, I sat down with a woman and began talking about Jeremy. I tearfully said, “why did this happen to me? Was I a bad mother?”
She took my hand and softly shared a story with me. She told me of a woman that lived in a small village. She lost her child
suddenly to illness. The woman went to the leader of the village and tearfully begged, “Please bring my son back to me.”
The wise leader said, “Go out into the village and find me one villager who has not experienced a loss as painful as yours, and I will bring your son back to life. For days the woman went from home to home talking to others about her loss and if they had experienced loss. Tearfully they shared their stories and she found herself comforting them. When she returned to the leader, she found that everyone in the village had lost someone special to them.
She understood that she was not being punished, had not done anything wrong, and that dying is unfortunately, a part of living. She was now able to mourn the death of her own child and to help others who had lost someone special.
She then mentioned that her child had died 20 years ago and as she healed her own heart and dried her tears she was able to help others who were newly grieving. She shared that thinking of her child still can bring tears to her eyes, but she is also able to smile when she talks about her.
This year is the 20th year since Jeremy left this earth. I now understand what she meant that night. I have spent recent years without him helping others heal and offering hope.
It’s spent helping those newly bereaved parents. It’s telling them, although they may not believe it now, the ache in their heart will not hurt as much as time goes on. They will always miss their child and long for a single second to hug them. They may however find a way to incorporate them into their lives in a positive way.
Talking to others is one way to begin to heal from such a loss, but if you’re like me on that first night, unable to share yet, a suggestion is to journal write. When Jeremy died, I would write “letters to Heaven” to him and tell him how much I missed him. I would play the music I once asked him to turn down loudly and the tears would flow.
These recent shootings have affected my heart. If I were talking to the parents of these children, I would softly say “I have been where you are today, and I care and wish you comfort and hope. It is my prayer that there will be a time when on Valentine’s Day you no longer remember the day you lost them, but the years you spent loving them. Just as that woman shared with me at fellowship, every time I help others with their loss, I find myself healing a little more.
Mary Jane Cronin