Thursday, November 18, 2010

The Compassionate Friends ask the right questions

The Compassionate Friends – a non-profit organization for bereaved families and the people who care about them, following the death of a child – pose a question a day on its Facebook page regarding how we handle the every day issues involved in grieving and surviving our child's death.

Questions in the last few weeks included: 
  1. Have you been able to find meaning in your life since the death of your child, sibling, or grandchild?
  2. As the one year mark since our daughter's death is nearing . . . we become nervous and defiantly not anticipating the date. What does one do on the one year "anniversary"?
  3. How well do you feel this saying applies to bereaved families after a child dies? 

"From the outside looking in you can never understand and from the inside looking out you can never explain." ~ author unknown 
  4. How have you handled your child's room? 
  5. What did someone do after your child (sibling, grandchild) died that really touched your heart?

I have responded to a lot of these questions from my experience on the TCF Facebook page and touch on them in more detail in my forthcoming memoir, Leaving the Hall Light On, about my son's mental illness, suicide, and how our family survived. 

Here is my response to Question No. 5 above:

One night right before the first Thanksgiving after my son's death my next-door neighbor left a basket on my doorstep. She said in her note that she dreaded the holidays after her mother died, so she gathered a few things to ease the holiday season for me. Her thoughtfulness certainly helped – and for quite a long time. Among the items inside was a poetry book about coping with the loss of a love, a journal, a candle, a box of absolutely delicious chocolate covered graham crackers, a little silk pillow with the word Heal on it, and a smooth gray stone. Early on this stone became my biggest comfort as I describe in this poem:

A Stone Called Son

I sleep with a stone.
It's gray and small enough
to fit in the palm of my hand.
One side is smooth, the other
has the word, son, cut into it.
And when I put the stone
in the crook of my index finger
I can read the word with my thumb.
I like to place it between my breasts
and feel its coolness on my chest.
It quiets the pain in my heart
and slows down my heartbeats
so I can rest.
Sometimes I hold it all night
and find it in my fist when I wake.
When I'm not sleeping it sits next to my bed
on a tiny silk pillow imprinted on one side
with the word, heal.
Well, it takes time.
A healing pillow and a stone called son
can't do all the work. 

8 comments:

Jessica Bell said...

Wow. That poem made my chest go tight. That was beautiful. One of the best poems I've read all year. Thanks so much for sharing that! :o)

Melissa Kline said...

Beautiful poem! So very touching. Thank you for sharing.

Madeline Sharples said...

Thank you so much, Jessica and Melissa. I really value your opinions of my poem. :o)

J. Michael Dew said...

I am blown away by the quiet power of this poem. I shared this with my colleague at the college and, in our stale breakroom, we shed tears.

Madeline Sharples said...

WOW. Your comments blow me away. I am honored.

Cynthia Neale said...

Your poem is a collector's item...raw with heartache but with action that bespeaks of the healing that is ongoing...lovely.

February Grace said...

There is such courage in your poem, and a very important message too- a very, very important message for someone like me.

Thank you so much for sharing your heart- your emotions have truly touched mine.

~bru

Lucky Press, LLC said...

Days after reading this poem I have returned to it once again. I am printing it out and placing it in my copy of "10 Poems that Can Change Your Life."

This poem is profound for those whose child has died, but it also spoke to me of a time I was not able to be with my son and help him as I longed to do. I bought a necklace with three engraved rings "strength, hope, and courage." I wore it everywhere, as if it could really make me stronger. And, it did, though I do not know why.

Something miraculous happens when, after our hearts have been broken, we allow others to see that brokeness and we realize the universal hopes and sorrows we humans share.

I will never forget your beautiful poem, Madeline.