We had the opportunity to go to Camp Sunshine again for a bereavement weekend (read past posts here: https://thecookiegal.wordpress.com/2013/05/28/camp-sunshine/)
I didn’t know about Camp Sunshine when Alexander was alive. Because he was in the hospital so much, it is likely we wouldn’t have been able to go then anyway. Camp is a very special place. It is a place that kids with cancer and other illnesses, can just be KIDS. They get to run, swim, play, and not worry about other kids looking at them funny, or being afraid of them.
During the bereavement weekends, it is a chance for us parents to talk about our children without making anyone feel uncomfortable. If you are not a bereaved parent, you might be thinking “why would someone feel uncomfortable?” Believe me it happens. You mention that you have a child that died, and people just don’t know what to say. Some people change the topic, and some people just won’t mentioned the child that died at all. Sometimes, they will say “I don’t want to make you sad”. Well, let me tell you NOT talking about our children makes us sad!! Yes, we might cry talking about our children, but that is perfectly okay and normal. When we are at camp, we can talk about our kids, cry, laugh, remember. It is a beautiful time. We don’t have to pretend to be happy. A lot of people do that. They go to work, and put on a happy smile, only to cry the whole way home, or at night when they are alone.
Camp is a lot of fun for both the parents and the kids. The kids go off to Day Camp, broken down by age. The parents have free time, discussion groups and Super Duper Blooper games! The games are fun and silly, a way to get to know other parents in a fun way. This session however, I decided to skip them. I also skipped out on most of the discussion groups as well. I don’t know why really. Just kind of needed to “be” this session, rather than be involved.
One of the beautiful things about the November session, is that parents are given the chance to make a memory quilt of their children. Some people include favorite clothing, or memories. Others have pictures put on their quilt. Last year, we made a beautiful one out of Alexander’s clothing. Before we went I was all excited to make it. But, on our way up, I realized there was no way I could cut into Alexanders things! Thankfully, I did not need to. There are quilters there, that will do as much or as little as the parents want. This year, I wanted to make something I could snuggle with, and something that included part of all of my children. I had a few ideas, which I talked about with the quilter. We were able to have the same person make our quilt that we had last year. She again did a beautiful job. I still did not help with the cutting, but I did help with the design this time, and I did a bit of the edging. (I tried to last year, but I couldn’t get past a few stitches!)
We talk about a lot of different things in group, but often the same topics come up from all parents. A big topic is Worry. We worry about our living children – how are they handling the loss of a sibling? Will they get sick too? Will they die too? Someone made a point about saving our living children’s clothing. I too have thought of that. What if something happens to one of my girls, and I need to make a memory quilt for them? I try not to live in those thoughts for long, but they do cross my mind.
Camp is a wonderful place, because I have met so many wonderful families. I wish I never had to meet them, but I am really glad I did.
Grief is a difficult thing. I am 4.5 years into this journey without Alexander. Sometimes it feels like it was yesterday that he was here, sometimes it seems like a lifetime ago. There are days when I just want to stay in bed all day with my head under the covers, and there are days I can go about my life and be happy. But, even in those happy days and moments, if I stop and think, I remember Alexander and how much I have lost. I often hear people say “our child was born and our family is complete”. My family will never be complete. We will always be missing a part of it – a part that can never be replaced.
People that are new to this journey ask “does it get better”? I don’t know if I would say better – because life will never be the same, but it does get different and bearable. Yes, I am happier than I was 4.5 years ago. Yes, I smile more than I cry. (in fact, I was saying to the moms discussion group, that I haven’t really cried about Alexander in a long while, and even that makes me sad!). Some people might say “well, you have your girls now”. Yes, that is true. They are both Joys in our lives. But, even with them, I am sad. Sad that they never knew there brother, sad that they have to visit him at a cemetery. Sad that he never got to be a big brother.
I will end this post with a link to another blogger I recently discovered.