Welcome to the club

“Welcome to the club.” That is what we were told by a close friend of ours who was already in the club. None of us wants to be in the club, none of us expects to be in the club – it is a terrible place. But because of what has happened, you are now a member of our club; we all hate being here and we are so sorry you have joined us.

1Losing a child, your child, is something that the human mind is not designed to comprehend, or even understand. In reality, it will take your mind three to six months to fully understand and accept the fact that you have lost your beloved son or daughter. It is what we have all gone through, and we do feel for you. And the hurt gets worse, and the hurt gets deeper, once your mind really lets it sink in. But that will take some time.

Are you still able to sleep at night? Most likely you can forget about that for the foreseeable future. I sleep about four or five hours a night, tops. And it’s a pretty light, shallow sleep. Which, from what I hear from other parents in our club, is the norm. And the sleep is not deep nor steady; it is broken up by tears and thoughts. Andrew is the last thing I think about when I eventually fall asleep at night; and every morning when I awake – it is like losing him all over again. I catch catnaps during the day to help out, but everyone in the club has unfortunately acquired terrible sleep habits.

Crying? Yes, you are crying a lot now. We all cry in the beginning. Sometimes we cry when we see a picture of our son, other times we cry when someone mentions his name, or we see something that he would have loved. Sometimes we cry at work, or hide in the bathroom or a stairwell so we don’t bother others. Sometimes we don’t know why we are crying, but we just lose it and cry. Crying is now a real part of your life, and will be for a long, long time. There are triggers that set us off, and there will be triggers that set you off as well. We can try to avoid them sometimes, but we can’t avoid them all the time. So let yourself cry, let your feelings out, it is the healthiest thing to do. You will learn that crying lets you move forward, and lets you carry on with your life.

Your friends will change too.  Not just their relationship with you, but who your friends are. No matter what they say and no matter what you do, they change. Those closest to you now may or may not be your friends in a year or two. Yet some of those friends on the periphery of your friendship circle may end up being your closest and most supportive friends. Some people cannot deal with the loss of your child and do not know how to deal with it. They will unfortunately back away from that formerly close relationship. But don’t worry, others around you will step up. They will make sure you have food in your refrigerator. They will be someone to talk to late at night, they will call you just to say hello and listen to you talk, and they will cry with you. Those will become your true friends.

The same goes for family. Some people in your family will find it too difficult to be around you and to understand your loss. Some people in your family are just too fragile to handle your loss. It has happened to all of us in the club.  There is little you can do to help them. But like your friends, some distant relatives, some relatives you never really befriended over the years, will step up and become your new close family and your support. For some blessed reason they can relate to your situation, they can feel for you, they have the compassion and love that makes them reach out to you.

2Don’t be upset with those who do not call you or reach out to you; don’t harbor ill will or animosity towards them. Don’t obsess over why they have walked away from you. I did for a while and when I let it go, it really helped me to step forward. You have enough pain, loneliness, and heartache in your life now, don’t take on more. There are a lot of people who just don’t know what to say, don’t know how to react, don’t know what to do – and their way of dealing with your child’s death is to recoil, hide and move on with their lives. And what I have learned, what everyone else in the club has learned, is to let them be. When they feel like approaching you, they will. If they don’t, then it is their loss. You will find friends and support from those who reach out to you, not by trying to reach those who are stepping back.

Stay seating in your chair, it is your safe place, it is your comfort zone. Let your circle of support form around you. Whether that chair is in your home, or in your office. It can be at Starbucks or it can be at Via Vanti – but it is your safe place where you feel comfort.

One last word about other people. Listen to what they mean – not what they say. People don’t know what to say, they really don’t. They may say something that is incredibly insensitive, or something that just churns your stomach. But it is not their fault. Remember that they are trying to say something to help you and to reach out to you. There is no animosity or cruelty meant in their words, it is just that they are blessed not to be in our club and don’t know what to say.

So again, I am sorry that you have joined our club. Please read other posts that I have written, it will help you. Read books, read other blogs, go to meetings – do anything that you need to stay sane, to find a road to peace in your life, and to learn to deal with this most tragic loss. But most of all talk to others. I promise, as other have promised to me, that you will one day smile again, The thoughts of your son or daughter will one day make you smile and their memory will bring joyful tears to your eyes. But you will learn to live again – not in their memory, or in the shell of a person you once were, but you will learn to live to honor them and to live the life they never had the chance to live.


16 thoughts on “Welcome to the club

  1. Sherry Clagg

    Thank you for addressing well some of the fellow club members feelings. We can’t even articulate them at times, but as a fellow member you nailed them. Most important is to give my daughters life the honor and meaning she deserved. She was precious and had many awesome qualities I miss and want to hold onto!

  2. Jo-Ann Gershkoff

    I came across your blog a few house ago. I started at the beginning and I have a long way to go. Your words are just what I need. I am so grateful for your work. It is so profound to see “my” wild powerful thoughts and feelings articulated so accurately and eloquently. Thank you for sharing your precious son with me. My son, Nicholas Joseph Gershkoff, died Nobember 22, 2013. He was and forever will remain 20 years old. My oldest child. My first child. My son. It has been over 2 years hell its almost 2.5 years. The time does not mean anything except I have been missing him for a longer amount of time. It means I’m more broken down. I still feel disbelief every day. Timelines and labels are silly. This is forever. This will never be ok. I will never feel secure and truly content or satisfied. Nothing is whole or complete. A huge hole has been made in everything we do as a family and for me as an individual . No matter what I do I yearn for him. I yearn to experience the feeling of just knowing where he is. Oh it’s 1 he is in school. Or work or with a friend. He’s doing his thing. Being him. I will see him later and we will talk. We don’t even realize that is such an enormous part of outr wellbeing and happiness. We don’t even know until it is gone that it is the same as oxygen. Thank you for writing your journey here.

  3. Sally Klein

    Perry, this post is your best one yet!

    Sherry Clagg you said it all!

    For the rest of my life anytime whenever I read or hear a date, I automatically reference it in regard to “Before” or “After” the date my only child passed. That is my “benchmark” as I live the rest of my life honoring my daughter.

  4. Joanne Frizalone

    For those who have lost a child, I can’t begin to imagine the journey. All of us have had loss and the pain that goes along with it. But I have always described the loss of a child as the most cruel act of a god we believe in. We always look for answers and explanations, but they never seem to come. Why do you think that is?

  5. Barbara

    Right on Perry, thank God for our club, you are all my sanctuary and the place where our children live! See you soon.

  6. Kathleen Wit

    I regularly read your blog on Andrew. It’s beautiful and so sad. Thank you for opening your heart and being willing to be raw with your emotions. You have done so much good for others. Andrew would be so proud.

  7. Scott

    Perry —
    I find something to move me — and improve me — in each of your posts.
    With gratitude —

  8. MAS

    Thank you for writing this.few people are willing to stay open about such tragedy.

    I don’t know your pain at all but it really gives me much needed perspective in my life.

  9. Harriet

    Hi Perry,

    You always move me with your deep feelings. My experience is different from yours, but what you have to say about others reactions to loss completely hits the mark.


  10. Margie Borth

    I am in the club too. I also lost my Andrew 2.5 years ago. He was just 24, taken by the prescription drug epidemic. I brought a little kitten home six months after his death to help me with my grief and also to provide for her, give me a reason to live. We named her Gracie and she became my healer. She was tiny when she came into our lives and she accepted me as her mother. We had a ritual of her nuzzling into my neck, purring loudly and talking to me with her still high-pitched meow that never changed. I had a bond with her unlike any other pet I have owned. She was found dead in my neighbors yard last week. The grief for her has hit me like a tidal wave. Her life and death/ Andrew’s life and death/my life have all become intertwined. She was SO MUCH more than just a cat to me.

    1. Joanne Frizalone

      So terribly sorry for your losses. I don’t think we will ever know why bad things happen to good people. You must have great strength.


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