After my husband’s suicide, shock and fury masked my sadness for months. Molly propelled me to pay attention to grief one afternoon as I heard a friend ask her where her father was because she hadn’t seen him in awhile. Molly answered, “In England.” She could not speak this new terrible language of death and loss. Shortly after that car ride and 9 months after his death, I began taking 9 year old Molly to The Den for Grieving Kids. She was afraid The Den would require her to talk about feelings and make her cry like the therapist she’d rejected. The Den would be different, I assured her. She’d be with other kids her age who’d lost a loved one and they’d have activities. If she didn’t want to, she need not utter a word. Immediately, Molly felt at home and marveled she was not the only kid whose parent had died.
There were years we never missed a session. Two Mondays a month, I’d make the drive down to Greenwich where we ate pizza and salad perched on tiny chairs in the pre-school classroom before moving into the big room for introductions. We formed a heartbreakingly large circle. We took turns saying our names and, only if we wanted to, who died. Or simply: “I pass” because, at first, it was hard to get the words out: my husband, wife, father, mother and worse — child, brother or sister died. But over the weeks, as the realization and pinch of our losses grew into scars, it became easier to share the declaration of these deaths. At least with this group of fellow survivors.
From that very first session, Molly loved going to The Den, easily going off with a group of children her own age. In another room, us parents gathered in a circle, sharing stories, struggles, tears — and laughter, too. Initially, I found myself envying what seemed the tragic but uncomplicated grieving of the others whose spouses died from illness or accidents – not suicide. How could I admit to them, that in the mixed up soup of my emotions I also felt relief? I discovered no shame and much healing. Regardless of anyone’s tale, grief is thorny territory and we were all traversing it together, reluctant members of the same club. The Den for Grieving Kids eased our travel on this road.
Seven years later, my daughter has decided it is time to say farewell to this amazing place. For these few hours a month, she and I reflected on N’s death. Then, in the car driving through the dark towards home, the two of us shared stories, carefully paying attention to each other and our healing hearts.