I was in hostile territory early in the day. BoBo was letting me know, in no uncertain circumstances, that he was NOT happy about having to attend the Bereavement Camp.
I kept thinking about how Tom, if he were alive, would have made it clear to BoBo that he had no choice. His delivery of the message wasn’t always pleasant though; there were times when the whole van was filled with unhappy people going to a “fun” family event…only it wasn’t fun anymore. Then it occurred to me, if Tom was *alive* none of us would be going to today’s camp.
BoBo’s anger only grew as our van traveled the winding road. By the time we arrived (30 minutes early) he was so difficult to be around that YaYa and I left him in the car for a while. After a bit, he joined us in the parking lot and we walked down to the event.
The location was a lovely retreat center located in the mountains. It was so peaceful whereever you went on the property. The staff was friendly and welcoming. BoBo, YaYa and I wandered around to see frogs on lily pads, coi fish, horses, and two very cool dogs. I soon knew that it would be okay.
There was a get acquainted session, lunch and then some break out sessions. BoBo went off with the “Teens,” YaYa went to the “Middles,” and I was with the “Spousal Loss” group.
This was my first experience of face to face support groups. The redwood trees made a safe shelter for our group to tell about ourselves. I imagined it would feel a little like the AA groups that I attended in nursing school.
The introductions begin with “My name is ____ and I have been a widow for ___ (amount of time).” What followed was different though. Out came the stories and, often, tears. They would talk about their children, how the kids were doing, and how they were managing as the only surviving parent. You cannot imagine the experiences. They all touched me on one level or another.
I talked about how when you present yourself to the world as doing “okay”, being generally together, that people wonder what is wrong when you suddenly show sadness. I described how I felt that nobody understood why I was still on the grief path (why it wasn’t over yet). Everyone in the group seemed to relate – apparently this is common. Sadly, even those whose loss was more recent than mine could relate. We talked about how the offers to “help” have dwindled. It’s the same with me too. I find that offers are mostly absent, or so off based that I am then left with the chore of trying to let the offer down gently because the person offering is well-meaning.
After the session, I found YaYa by the horses. He already had a ride and was waiting for another turn. Each time it looked like his turn was coming, another child would arrive that had not yet ridden. He was a good sport about and even helped them locate the correct size helmet. We rode the little train and then he returned to wait.
Meanwhile, I learned that BoBo had done well in his group and was now out hiking with his new friends. That made me smile.
By the time the day ended, there were many happy families. BoBo, YaYa, and I returned home for a swim in the neighbor’s pool followed by the lazy cool’s special (In ‘n Out Burger).
It was an exhausting but good weekend. Nothing else got done – not laundry, not cleaning, not bill paying. Still, it was good.