On Thursday September 20, 2018, Isaiah was texting his mom Kelly about trying to find and open a new bank account that had no fees. As Kelly scrolls through the texts, she smiles. Isaiah was excited to hear about the possibility of getting a bonus for opening an account and questioned Kelly, in his usual abbreviated text, HM (how much). That was one hour before Isaiah was killed. He was 20 years old.
Tree of Bright Stars, gave me a sense of community
Kelly received information about Bereaved Families of Ontario –Midwestern Region (BFO-MR) in her after-care package after the Isaiah’s funeral. Although she was hesitant, she registered online for the Child Loss Group. Soon after, she saw advertising for the Tree of Bright Stars memorial event. It was taking place about two months after Isaiah’s death.
“It was probably too soon to go, but I went. I didn’t know anyone but my family who came with me,” says Kelly. “When the two speakers spoke, who happened to both be parents whose children had died, I felt the connection. It gave me a sense of community. I listened to them share their stories, and they were living – showered, hair washed, and it gave me hope. I was doing my daily routines, but just surviving and they were really living. I wanted to be able to get there.”
Once again, she took information about BFO-MR programs for herself and her youngest daughter and tucked it away for later.
Shelve the extracurricular activities and clear the obstacles
After participating in the Tree of Bright Stars and feeling the sense of community, it reaffirmed for Kelly that she made the right decision registering for the spring session of the Child Loss Group. She also then decided she would register her youngest daughter for the Healing Little Hearts program, which would run back-to-back nights.
“I knew this was going to be a big commitment, but we needed to shelve all the extra circular activities and clear the obstacles so we would go. And it was the best decision for me to do both programs together because I was able to help my daughter to connect with others, so she knows it is not just her going through this,” Kelly says. “I learned how to support her, as well as learned how to support myself.”
Both Kelly and her daughter learned how to talk about how Isaiah was killed and how to grieve his death. It has helped them both to move forward.
Empowered me to heal and not constantly drowning
When Kelly began BFO-MR’s program for parents who have experienced the death of a child and listened to the facilitators share their stories, she couldn’t help thinking that she will never be able to do what they are doing – “they have it all together”.
“When your child dies, the world around you is turned upside down and you don’t know if you can survive it. It is earth shattering. You become disconnected from yourself. I was a person who was organized, who created and followed a checklist and now I could barely shower.”
Listening to the facilitators she knew they understood what she was feeling, because they get it; they had been there too.
“They empowered me to heal and not constantly be drowning. They helped to empower me to not only heal myself but how to support fellow bereaved members with our shared experience.”
At group each week, it often changed who was having a bad day. As a group, Kelly says, “we rallied around that person and supported them, and it felt good.” She made new friends who continue to support each other even after the program ended. These connections have helped to continue to make Kelly stronger in her own grief journey.
Grief doesn’t end, you make space and carry it with you
Kelly also learned new perspectives about grief, and it gave her a new outlook. “The facilitators were helping us to understand that you don’t get over it, you learn to carry it and keep going. It gives you hope. Grief doesn’t end, you make space and carry it with you. It doesn’t end because love doesn’t end.”
Kelly makes space for her grief and it helps her to keep going. Some days are harder than others, but she knows that this is ok. Knowing Isaiah’s death and her grief are not something she has to get over and that Isaiah will always be with her has given her new sense of hope and strength to continue to move forward her way.
Without BFO-MR, I would have been isolated and alone in my grief.
BFO-MR allowed Kelly and her daughter to access support in a space where they were safe to share and talk about Isaiah’s life and Isaiah’s death. There is still a chair set for Isaiah at the dinner table, and they know that is ok.
“Without BFO-MR, I would have been isolated and alone in my grief,” says Kelly. “Isaiah is still part of our family and he is still with us. Bereaved Families has given us the hope and strength to carry him with us always and forever.”