A sympathy card I received after my 5-year-old son, Jason, died in 1992. This card is dated October 14th, which is my birthday.

“It was in January, only three months later”

One of the worst times during bereavement is around three to six months. The “cushion of shock” has begun to wear off. The true agony and realization begins.

I was very unapproachable during my grief. There was a lady from Jason’s preschool who was the organizer for all the dinners that had been brought to my home. Her name was Audrey. I was so grateful to her for being so supportive and kind. Those dinners made a huge difference.

Audrey confided to me that it had been extremely upsetting for all the parents and children at our preschool. It threw everyone off-balance that Jason had died. Audrey added that she was looking for spiritual guidance to help her deal with her feelings.

One day she called me and her voice was anxious. She said, “Judy, this is unbelievable! There has been another death!”

It was in January, only three months after Jason had died. I listened to the story. The child who had died was a six-year-old girl. Although she was no longer attending the same preschool, she was certainly known by many people there since she was there a year earlier.

She was a bright and healthy child. It had happened so suddenly and swiftly that it was unbelievable. Although she had seen a doctor on Friday for an ear infection and was taking an antibiotic, over the weekend she did not improve. Her mother planned to take her to the doctor after dropping her son off at school. She waved goodbye to her daughter, who was weakly waiting in bed.

When her mother returned, the little girl was dead. The infection had traveled to her daughter’s heart; she and her husband were told it was just one of those rare circumstances.

I noted that this child died on January sixth, and my son had died on October sixth – three months to the day! When I heard this story, I was living with my own torment. However, I decided I could share my torment with anyone who was also suffering.

I went to see the parents and began one of my “friendships in grief.”

My new friends were Julie and Eli. They accompanied me to my meetings at Compassionate Friends and Julie and I became especially close.

How was it that a healthy child could die so suddenly? Because my child had a heart condition, I had always felt some anticipation of losing him.

My new “friends in grief” had no anticipation or preparation. That made their shock so much worse. I witnessed their anguish of wondering what could have been done differently so their daughter might have lived!

The first year of bereavement held exquisite agony. I was pregnant, and withdrew from the world around me. I shared a lot of it with Julie. Our children were both buried at the same cemetary.

She shared with me, too. I remember certain things very clearly, and I see the image in my mind. It was on her daughter, Stephanie’s birthday. She told me she baked Stephanie’s favorite cake, and cried inconsolably in her kitchen as she made it for the daughter who would never have another birthday again.

Julie and Eli were our good friends now. Because Julie was an excellent cook, we were often treated to wonderful meals at their home. I cannot even count how many times Julie would cook a casserole dish for me and bring it to my home.

I delivered my daughter, and it was a few months after that when Julie called me to tell me her latest news.

She and Eli had adopted a baby girl!

It was so interesting for me – her new daughter’s birthday was only a few hours after my daughter’s. Even though the birth date was the day after, it was still amazing for me how close in age they both were.

I drifted away from Julie and Eli when I became busy with my children and my parents’ care. I believe I also wanted less and less reminders of anything related to my bereavement.

The years passed and I didn’t see Julie and Eli very often. It was a poignant moment when I saw them at a memorial service for the woman, Audrey, who had made our introduction. The woman who was upset about Jason’s death, had died suddenly.

A few months ago, I called Julie and Eli to let them know about my writing, and how I had changed. It was important for me to share with them because they knew what I had gone through firsthand!

Julie and I in 2006.

The two, subsequent daughters.

“Last night”

I wrote last about my mom’s dementia episode. I visited my mom after her meltdown over taking a shower. She was confused, but calm. There were so many new challenges now. My mother had an appointment for a dental exam, and it was in the early morning on a day when her caregiver was unexpectedly late. My mother refused to allow for the dentist to look in her mouth or to have her teeth cleaned.

I explained to her social worker that any appointment now needed to be planned so someone could be there who could reassure my mother.

Although my “balloon of joy” had definitely landed for a while, I allowed for it and submerged myself in anything that brought me comfort. I focused on organizing my book and created another post for my art blog. My ordinary life was also very challenging this week, because I still have teenagers at home!

Therefore, I looked forward to singing at Border’s last night. Being unable to sing with a cold a few weeks earlier had me appreciating my good health.

I had a plan to meet some friends (from my “special moms” support group) at a restaurant across the street for dinner, when I was done singing. One of the moms who had moved away was back in town visiting. I had written about her; she was brutally assaulted a few months ago. Thankfully, she was healing and doing better.

It was raining, but I felt alive and happy as I entered Border’s to sing last night. I was also glad to know that this particular Border’s where I performed would not be closing!

I hooked up my guitar to the amplifier and set up my microphone.

I looked up, and I was in shock. There were both Julie and Eli! I gave them warm hugs and felt joyful tears well up inside of me. I couldn’t believe they had come to hear me sing!

As I sang the words to many of my songs about grief, I felt the intense connection of knowing how “real those words” were to my friends. I especially knew they could understand my feelings surrounding a subsequent child, as I sang my recent song, No Words for You.

However, I must share that I did not feel like my teenagers were “butterflies” this past week!

Halfway through my show, a group of women waved to me as they all came in and sat down. My good friends and “special moms” had come to hear me play.

Last night, I truly sang from my heart!

My “special moms” that came last night to hear me sing (from left to right) – Kristina, Amy, and Tauni.

© Judy Unger and 2011. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Judy Unger with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

About Judy

I'm an illustrator by profession. At this juncture in my life, I am pursuing my dream of writing and composing music. Every day of my life is precious!
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1 Response to YOU’VE BEEN ON MY MIND

  1. kloppenmum says:

    My thoughts and prayers are with you. Thank-you for sharing this deeply personal process.


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